Music Therapy: Its Effectiveness, Benefits, and Processes

girl playing the piano

Music has been improving the physical and mental well-being of musicians and listeners for as long anyone can remember. Some songs encourage us while others help us understand life. Music connects people, sometimes in ways that they can’t explain, whether it’s a song from a band or a tune from an instrument.

It’s no surprise that music can be used to heal. For years, hospitals, schools, and recovery centers worldwide have used music therapy to help patients recover.

The Effectiveness of Music Therapy

Music therapy is the use of music to improve a person’s health. It comes in two basic types: active and receptive.

  • Active Music Therapy: Patients either sing or play musical instruments.
  • Receptive Music Therapy: Patients listen to recorded or live music.

There’s a variety of research on the effectiveness of music therapy. In a 2020 study in The Arts in Psychotherapy, they discovered that music therapy improves the moods of hospitalized patients. By listening to music, patients could manage their anxiety, depression, and stress levels.

Music therapy also helps develop physical health. For example, piano lessons can help stroke patients regain their motor skills. A patient can listen to music while undergoing treatment to relieve pain and reduce stress.

Music Therapy vs. Sound Therapy

Music therapy is often confused with sound therapy, but they have essential differences. Sound therapy focuses on producing pitches, tones, and vibrations. These sounds do not necessarily form a cohesive piece of music.

Unlike sound therapy, music therapy requires a professional to develop a treatment plan. Certifications and training for sound therapists are not standardized compares to music therapists.

Another glaring difference between music and sound therapy is the place of practice. Sound therapy is mostly associated with alternative medicine. Music therapists practice in hospitals, private practices, and recovery centers.

Implementing Music Therapy

Music Therapy

Music therapy involves more than having a patient listen to music or learn an instrument. The program must be implemented by a professional. Although certification for being a music therapist is optional, certain states in the US require one from the Certification Board for Music Therapists.

Music therapists often work with other professionals to make sure the treatment plan works. They assess a patient’s needs and determine their musical preference before developing a treatment plan.

After discussion, a music therapist’s goals for treatment might include:

  • Mood improvement
  • Improved quality of life
  • Stronger coping skills
  • Relieved stress and symptoms of anxiety

What Goes in a Music Therapy Session

A music therapy session lasts up to half an hour, depending on the goals set by the music therapist. Sessions can be set once a week or on a case-to-case basis. Patients can choose between one-on-one or group sessions.

During the session, a therapist may ask the patient to listen to different types of music, play an instrument, or compose their own songs. Patients may be asked to pay attention to their emotions as they complete the task.

A therapist may ask the patient to find ways to manage emotions with music. For example, a patient with anger management issues may be asked to listen to or create music with soothing tunes.

If someone has a physical or mental problem, music therapy is an excellent treatment option. When combined with traditional treatment plans, music therapy provides great benefits for one’s overall health.

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