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Benefits of music therapy

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Music
Wordcount: 1678 words Published: 3rd Mar 2017

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Benefits of Music Therapy

Today, there are many different techniques of health improvement and general well being in music therapy. It’s true no matter where we are born music is identified as an expression we and everyone seems to love it. We are not of the same culture yet music can pick us up, create or refresh memories, carry us through an emotional journey by listening to the lyrics or simply be enjoyed. This paper explores various techniques and experiences utilized in music therapy.

The First Known Use of Music Therapy

As far back as biblical time, music was understood to be an instrument of healing. According to the book of Samuel I, when King Saul was beset by “It came to pass, when the evil spirit from God…“ hisservants counseled him to find a harpist whose playing might mend his troubled soul. A young shepherd named David, reputed to be a skilled musician, was quickly summoned. David “took a harp and played with his hand so Saul was refreshed and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him.” (The Bible, King James Version, 1 Samuel 16:23)

Music Therapy with Children and Adolescents

The Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975 in summary that handicapped or disabled children in the United States are given a free education. Music Therapy ismentionedas a Services Program Option which can be written in a child’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP). A child with special needs can be referred to music therapy to help them improve their communication, cognitive skills, sensory-motor or perceptual-motor skills, as well as social, emotional and psychological needs. A Music Therapist works to change a specific behavior, enhance their skills, improve the child’s overall condition or even teach the child a new skill in playing a musical instrument or singing.(Hanser, 1999)

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Statically it was found in the 1998 American Music Therapy Associate (AMTA) membership that Music Therapists served the following children cases (in order of frequency):developmentally disabled, behaviorally disordered, emotionally disturbed, physically disabled, school age population, multiply disabled, speech impaired, autistic, visually impaired, neurologically impaired, hearing impaired, substance abuse, abused or sexually abused, early childhood, dual diagnosed, and head injured.(AMTA, 1998).There are other known cases but not limited to the following; Rett Syndrome, AIDS, eating disorders, medical needs, burns, bereavement, Downs Syndrome, premature birth and neonatal needs, spinal cord injuries and Williams Syndrome. In addition, non-disabled children receive music therapy and benefit from it.(Hanser, 1999)

Children are able to gain self-awareness through movement to music and social skills through group music therapy. For example, an autistic child who previously disengaged human interaction may communicate with a therapist who gives positive music experiences since exploring music is non-threatening. Music has the advantage of demanding attention that a visual stimulus cannot, because it intrudes immediately through ears that cannot be closed voluntarily. Through music therapy, the child may encounter their first close relationship with a non-family member. (Hanser, 1999)

Based on research with infants in a Provo, UT intensive care unitit was determined that babies who were sung to on a regular basis were released from the unit 3-days earlier, digested more calories, and gained more weight than that compared to a group of infants notexposedto periods of song. (Gaynor, 1999)

Music Therapy with Adults

The psychological distress of being diagnosed with a medical condition or illness is generally something that the medical field overlooks in medical treatment. In many cases the avenues leadingto treatment in these various conditions provoke anxiety and tend to cause emotional reaction as well or even result in a mental disorder.(Hanser, 1999)

Music therapy includes procedures for relaxation which reduces anxiety and in some cases dilutes our concentration away from pain and discomfort. Often, the need for medication orin some casesrestraints are minimized when music therapy is introduced. (Hanser, 1999)

A primary treatment technique used to treat mental disorders is psychotherapy and musicbeing played takes a unique role in such. The music therapy setting becomes a microcosm, eliciting interactive social behaviors which may be shaped as therapy progresses. Reactions to and perceptions of music, discussions of musical themes and problem solving in a musical context are parallel behaviors for responding to similar situations outside the therapy environment. Dealing with these issues in the supportive and positive music setting can assist the person in tackling the real problem. Also patients may begin to understand their own feelings when they listen to a song that portrays their own feelings or ideas. (Hanser, 1999)

Special techniques of music therapy of music therapy are used in other areas for adults those documented but not limited to conditions as posttraumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury and Parkinson’s disease. There are even areas in forensic psychiatricwhere people were able to process painful events through music therapy, the use of music allowed them to access emotions by engaging in expression. (Hanser, 1999)

In a research study completed by anAustin TX medical Center resulted in approximately fifty-percent of women in childbirth that listened to music during childbirth didn’t need any anesthesia. As briefly mentioned earlier and to emphasize, the “music stimulation increasesendorphin release and this decreases the need for medication. It also provides a distraction from the pain and relieves anxiety,” noted an author of the study. (Gaynor, 1999)

Music Therapy with Older Adults

Some of themain characteristics of musicarethat it brings excitement, energy and life to many people who may approach late life losses in cognitive and physical functions. This could also benefit persons losing a loved one or even losing their vocational identity.

The most withdrawn and confused patients suffering from dementia due to Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders are able to participate actively in music therapy sessions.This gained experience for such patients enhances self respect and can revitalize their usefulness to the community and others.(Hanser, 1999)

Specifically, for people with dementia much as been written. There was a study conducted by Millard and Smith (1989) that a group of singing resulted in significantly higher vocal/verbal participation. It also resulted in less wandering and less disorientation captured in another study by Reigler (1980). (Chavin, 1991)

At the end of life, preparing for death, music therapy allows individuals to express how they are feeling by choosing a song to listen to, by singing, by performing and by composing songs with the assistance from their music therapist. (Hanser,1999) In my own personal experience, one of my best friends at the age of 62 recently passed away as a result of an aggressive lung cancer. We were only aware of the cancer for 2-weeks. The last 3-days of her life wasexcruciating, she was in terrible pains and was pleading with us to not let her die. The only way to calm her down was by singing to her, she would relax, her breathing would become smooth, her pulse would register normal, the terrible heat of her body (side-effect from the highdosage of morphine) would cool down and she would even crack a smile. Truly it is simply amazing how music changed my precious friend’s condition at the end of her life.

Instruments or Practices Used in Music Therapy

Through the use of instruments in group musical activities work not only is used to activate handicapped children but to deepen their level of participation in a musical setting. It is documented that live music which can be adapted easily to the working situation has a greater impact in therapy than recorded music. The more severe the casesthen the more true this is displayed. (Nordoff and Robbins, 1971)

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Examples of activities include but are not limited to of the following; ‘The RhythmBand’, each person is given a variety of percussive instruments and they are encouraged to beat freely to the music they hear. The use of blowing instruments such as bird call, a tuned horn, flute like, whistleswhich all can add brightness of tonal color to a musical arrangement. In many cases where children were patients, they were not able to maneuver proper fingering so the one tone played needed to be incorporated into the musical selected by the therapist. Many other instruments can be played as well, stringed instruments, bells, triangles, xylophones, wood blocks and wooden clappers. (Nordoff and Robbins, 1965)


The passionformusic in my own life has beenbeneficialindealing with stress, depression, anxiety, infertility, illness, loss of loved onesand so much more.As in this report and otherwise, there are endless cases of research and experiences documented clearly showing the awesomeand most importantlypositive impact of music in people lives covering a huge range of conditions andcircumstances.


Chavin, Melanie, RMT-BC (1991).The Lost Chord.Mt. Airy, ElderSong Publications INC.

Gaynor, Mitchell L., MD (1999).Sounds of Healing – A Physician Reveals the Therapeutic Power of Sound, Voice and Music.New York, Broadway Books, a division of Random House, INC.

Hanser, Suzanne, Ed.D, MT-BC (1999)The New Music Therapist’s Handbook.Boston, Berklee Press

Nordoff, Paul & Robbins, Clive (1971).Music Therapy in Special Education.New York,TheJohn Day Company

Nordoff, Paul & Robbins, Clive (1965).Music Therapy for Handicapped Children.Blauvelt.Rudolf Steiner Publications, INC.

Prophet Samuel,TheBible, King James Version


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