He’s just gotten into a screaming fight with his girlfriend. They exchanged meaningless, yet hurtful insults and she left in a tearful fit. He can feel his heart beating uncontrollably and can’t seem to stop pacing the room. Then he catches sight of his Pandora station sitting patiently on the computer screen. And with the click of a button, his favorite music station is flooding his ears. His heart begins to slow and so do his paces.
Today’s the day—the day she has her last interview for the job of her dreams. She’s had four before this and though it’s promising that she’s made it this far, there’s no way of knowing who else is in the running or if it’ll end in a victory. The nerves she’s feeling are unreal and getting in the way of her final preparations. She reaches into her pocket, pulls out her headphones, and secures them in her ears. As music fills her mind, a calmness comes over her and she can finally focus again—soon enough, she’s ready.
Have you ever found yourself, in a way, saved by music like in the above scenarios? Do you find that music helps you through certain adversities? Studies have shown that music can serve as a healing power, which has sparked a new kind of clinical therapy: music therapy.
Music therapy is an established health profession in which music is used in therapy to address a variety of needs an individual may have; these may be physical, emotional, social, or cognitive needs. After evaluating his or her patient, the therapist then decides on a specific treatment, which may include singing, dancing, creating music, and/or simply listening to music. This therapeutic musical involvement strengthens clients’ abilities and can also help certain individuals find a new, healthy way to express themselves who may have trouble doing so with words.
While music can also provide individuals with therapy or healing outside of a clinical space, here are some examples of what a certified music therapist might do:
- Work with the elderly to reduce the effects of dementia.
- Help hospitalized patients feel more comfortable.
- Attempt to reduce asthma episodes in an individual.
- Assist children with autism in improving communication capacities.
- Help a victim regain speech after he’s suffered from a brain injury.
Fact vs. Fiction
Some are reluctant to believe in the practice and real effects of clinical music therapy or just don’t take it seriously. This isn’t surprising as the practice is fairly unconventional and still growing, but maybe separating fact from fiction will help:
- Music therapists must have a degree in music therapy and 1200 hours of clinical training
- These degrees require knowledge in psychology, medicine, and music
- Music therapy is an evidence-based health profession
- All styles of music can be useful
- Previous music experience is required to participate in any kind of music therapy
- Only slow music is therapeutic
- You must be musically talented for music therapy to be effective
- Anybody can administer clinical music therapy
What Makes Music Therapeutic?
There are several key reasons music can be therapeutic for our minds and our souls, as explored by Kimberly Sena Moore, MM, NMT-F, MT-BC, a board-certified music therapist:
- Music is actually a core function of our brain. Our brains are taught early on to process music and research has even shown that newborn babies are able to detect different rhythmic patterns. This supports the method of using lullabies and rocking to calm baby cries and get them to sleep
- Our motor systems naturally match up with rhythmic beats. When we process music some of it goes straight to our motor nerves, which explains why sometimes we tap our feet or move our heads to a beat without even realizing we’re doing it.
- Music has a way of tapping into our emotions. It might be the music itself, or an association with the song we’re playing, but it has the power to make us feel happy, sad, angry, nostalgic.
- Music enhances learning. Think back to when you learned your ABC’s and 123’s. You probably learned them by memorizing a song. The structure and emotional pull of music makes it a great tool for conceptualizing new ideas and information.
- Music easily taps into our memories. Specific songs and rhythms have the power to bring specific places and moments flooding back to us. Music therapists often use music to stimulate their clients into recollecting memories from their past.
- Music provides us with a safe place. While some may prefer country to hip-hop or jazz to pop, most of us really enjoy music. It makes sense to use something that is thoroughly trusted and loved to effectively help someone whether that be socially, emotionally, or developmentally.
The Power of Music: In Conclusion
Maybe all you need to feel better is some time to relax and listen to some of your favorite songs. Or maybe you have a condition that could use a therapist’s attention. Which ever the case, music can be a powerful solution to solving small and large problems, reaching goals more easily and quickly, and living an overall happier life.