I grew up in a musically inclined house. My grandfather was a band director, my mother played the cello, my sister played the flute, and I was the little drummer girl of the house until I graduated high school (sorry neighbors!). What I didn’t realize was that growing up with music, both classical and pop culture, were forming the way that I dealt with the world. To this day I rely on music for coping, focus, and relaxation. Researchers have long known the health benefits of music and integrating it into therapy, could music therapy be something that you need in your life?
What Is Music Therapy?
Music therapy is “clinical and evidence-based use of music intervention to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program.” Musical therapists will either play recorded music, use live performance, or have the patient participate in making music in order to achieve therapeutic effects. Musical therapists mix music theory and neuroscience by using different aspects of music to help maximize the positive results of musical therapy.
Tempo is the speed of the underlying beat, meaning it is how fast the musical piece is. Musicians measure this in beats per minute (BPM).
Rhythm is the beat and flow of the musical piece. It is made up of both sounds and silence to make the piece come together and follows the tempo.
The tone is the frequency balance in the music. It is characterized by the duration and pitch of the instrument.
Timbre is a combination of may characteristics including tone, the strength of the harmonics, the quality of the music, and how the sound varies over time.
This is what you would expect, how loud the music is. This shouldn’t be confused with dynamics, which is how the songs changes in intensity throughout.
It is no surprise that music has effects on the brain, but it is the particular areas of the brain that it effects that make this type of therapy so useful.
Music Therapy And The Brain
In a study where patients were hooked up to a functional magnetic resonance imaging machine (fMRI) while listening to music showed researchers what parts of the brain were active while the subjects listened to music. When it came to the brain processing the timbre of the music, the cognitive areas of the cerebellum and sensory and default mode network cerebrocortical areas were activated. When the brain was registering the tone, rhythm, and tempo, cortical and subcortical cognitive, motor, and emotion-related circuits were activated. Because large-scale cognitive, motor, and limbic brain circuitry are all associated with processing music, musical therapy could be a valid option for a myriad of health issues both physical and mental.
Different Types Of Music Therapy
Music therapy can range from listening to music to playing it. Knowing the benefits and style of each type of treatment can help you determine what might work best for you. You can find a full and more detailed list here.
Bonny Method Of Imagery And Music
This type of therapy is when you utilize guided imagery along with the therapeutic effects of music. This type of treatment can help people who are struggling with psychological and physiological issues. The patient is instructed to focus on an image as a starting point to think about and discuss problems they are having. Adding music into the mix is supposed to help with the healing process as well as awareness.
This method is teaching music as a type of therapy. It focuses on rhythm, structure, and movement expression. It is supposed to help people with motor functions, as well as to improve physical awareness.
Neurologic Music Therapy
This type of musical therapy is based on neuroscience, the science of the brain. This type of therapy utilizes the perception and production of music, and it’s influence on the brain. Doctors who use this type of treatment claim that engaging with music causes changes to the brain that may be influencing motor skills.
This type of therapy was developed for disabled children who have autism, learning disabilities, mood disorders, or developmental delays. This type of music therapy is widely used and is known for being accessible to all skill levels and ages.
This is another type of therapy geared toward children with developmental disabilities. This type of musical therapy emphasizes schoolwork as well as humanistic psychology. Using this therapy may help a child with learning at school and improve their behavior with others.
Music Therapy For Fear And Anxiety
Music therapy has shown to have a physiological effect on the autonomic nervous system, which can help with fear and anxiety. With patients who were in the hospital for acute heart attacks, they found that using music therapy helped to reduce their stress. In the study, they found that the music helped by modifying the release of stress hormones.
When terminally ill children are in the pediatric hospital, knowing that their days are more numbered than they should be can cause an enormous amount of fear. This isn’t something any child should go through considering many adults can’t even handle this fear, but we don’t live in a perfect world. Research shows that utilizing music therapy for these children helped with their fear and anxiety. For the children who weren’t able to see their family as often as they needed, music therapy also helped fill in that social gap.
Musical Therapy And Pain
It is weird to think that music can help someone who is in pain, but research shows that it may be able to help. Studies have shown that music therapy may be beneficial for before, during, and after a medical procedure. Researchers found that calm, slow, and relaxing music proved to be beneficial with reducing pain. They also stated that it might be able to cut down on recovery time.
In patients who were undergoing heart surgery, they had some of them listen to music while in intensive care. What they found is that the music released oxytocin, which helps reduce pain signals being sent in your body.
Music Therapy And Parkinson’s Disease
While studying music therapy with Parkinson’s patients, they found that it may be beneficial in helping with sensory loss, depression, as well as the patients’ motor scores. Music therapy had an overall effect on increasing performance in daily activities, improving rhythmic limb movements, gait, and freezing in Parkinson’s patients.
Music Therapy And Alzheimer’s
Participating in making music opposed to listening to it has shown to be beneficial in Alzheimer patients. Making music has shown to help improve their cognitive functions and even reduce the amount of medication needed. The study states that this form of music therapy showed improvement in mood, self-expression, organization of the mental process, sensory stimulation, and motor control.
Music Therapy And Schizophrenia
Music therapy can even be beneficial to schizophrenia patients according to research. The schizophrenia patients who underwent music therapy showed an improvement in psychological symptoms and a slight increase in interpersonal relationships. However, in this study, their quality of life stayed the same.
Music Therapy And Delayed Speech Development
In children who have learning disabilities or autism, their speech development may be slowed by the way their brain functions. Research shows that music therapy improved children’s phonological memory as well as their understanding of sentence structure. Utilizing music therapy also showed an improvement in the development of speech and cognitive abilities.
Music Therapy And Premature Babies
Researchers had live music playing for premature infants with respiratory issues, clinical sepsis, and SGA three times a week within a two-week period. During lullabies, the heart rate of the infants lowered, and when the parent sang it the feeding behaviors improved, and it improved bonding and relationship between parent and child.
Music Therapy And Depression
When comparing patients who went through music therapy versus psychological treatment, they found that the patients who experienced the music therapy had less depressive symptoms than those going through psychotherapy. More research suggests that coupling music therapy alongside traditional psychotherapy can be beneficial for people with depression. When patients were experiencing both types of treatments, they exhibited a reduction in symptoms at a higher capacity than those who only had psychotherapy.
Talk To Your Doctor
If you believe that music therapy may benefit you, talk to your doctor about finding a specialist near you to get you started. Utilizing a psychiatrist and medicine like CBD oil can also help elevate your recovery process.
Have you ever experienced music therapy? We would love to hear how it worked for you and any tips you might have for people who may be considering it in the comment section below!