Music therapy is an established health profession in which music is used to support and encourage the physical, mental, social and emotional wellbeing of individuals.
How does it work?
Music is a powerful means of communication and of emotional expression. As a musical relationship develops between the individual and the therapist, the individual is encouraged to explore new ways of communicating and expressing her-/himself. After assessing the strengths and needs of each individual, the music therapist provides the indicated treatment. This is achieved through structured activities such as singing, listening, playing instruments, composition, moving to music, music and imagery exercises, as well as talking about the music or experiences during sessions.
What does it involve?
Since music therapists serve a wide variety of persons with many different types of needs, there is no typical music therapy session. Sessions are designed with a number of factors in mind, including the client’s physical health, communication abilities, cognitive skills, emotional wellbeing and interests.
Music therapy also provides avenues for communication that can be helpful to those who find it difficult to express themselves verbally.
Who benefits from music therapy?
Music therapists work with a wide variety of people. Some examples include those with learning disabilities, the developmentally delayed, those who have been abused, individuals who suffer from mental illnesses, the mentally and physically handicapped, the elderly (including those suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia), the terminally ill, the traumatically brain injured, those who have suffered trauma as well as persons who do not suffer from any clinical diagnosis. Music therapists work in schools (mainstream or remedial education), hospitals, nursing facilities, treatment centres, hospices, group homes, prisons, community programmes, as well as in private practice.
Effects of music therapy
- Research has shown that music with a strong beat can stimulate brainwaves to vibrate in sync with the beat, with faster beats bringing sharper concentration and more alert thinking, and a slower tempo promoting a calm, meditative state.
- Breathing and heart rate can also be altered by the changes music can bring. This is why music and music therapy can help counteract or prevent the damaging effects of chronic stress, thereby promoting not only relaxation, but general wellbeing.
- Music can also be used to bring a more positive state of mind, helping to keep depression and anxiety at bay. This can help keep creativity and optimism levels higher.
- Music has also been found to bring many other benefits, such as lowering blood pressure, boost immunity and ease muscle tension.
- Music can be used in daily life for relaxation, to gain energy when feeling drained and for release of emotional stress.