Music is a magical thing. Music can motivate people to do better. It can bring up feelings of happiness or sadness that are associated with a memory from the past. Music can force people to think differently and become better at certain subjects due to their brain working in a brand new way. Not only does music make everything better, but it is also powerful and can move mountains.
A lot of people overlook music’s ability to heal, and help those in the hospital or diagnosed with a disability, to dealing with anxiety or stress, music therapy is something all hospitals and medical offices should consider if applicable.
Music Therapy can and has helped millions of people around the world as a coping mechanism, to helping those awake from a coma and helping people with disabilities. Music Therapy is a unique approach to helping an individual overcome whatever it is they are facing. Everybody loves music and since music is the universal language, there should be more and more music therapy schools and clinics. Music therapy should become a dominant facet of the medical field. Not too long ago, a friend of mine was informed of a relative who went into a coma after a terrible horse-riding accident. His father, who is a musician, was asked to come to play some music by her favorite artist, Johnny Cash, weeks after the accident occurred. After playing the lady a couple of Johnny Cash’s songs, he packed up his guitar and headed home. Halfway home he received a phone call saying the lady woke from her coma and was asked to come back and play some more music for her. The power of music is indescribable.
Music therapy has been around a lot longer than most people would expect. After World War I & II, musicians would go to hospitals all over the country to play for Veterans facings many forms of trauma. After seeing the impact music had on the Veterans nationwide, musicians were soon employed by the hospitals. Soon to follow suit, there was a need in the college curriculum so these musicians could have some form of training in the medical field. Three essential power players, Ira Altshuler, Willem van de Wall, and E. Thayer Gaston, were the first to move this sort of profession into the educational sphere in the 1940s. Michigan State University was the first college to add music therapy as a major in 1944. Soon after, several colleges like Chicago Musical College, College of the Pacific, and others, introduced a Music Therapy program to students making music therapy as a profession more attainable. In the 1940s, The Music Teachers National Associate (MTNA) created programs to inform musicians, physicians, and psychiatrists, of the many ways music can be implied in schools and hospitals. As of today, music therapy is alive and well in as many as 30 countries and 6 continents.
Although studying music therapy may not be as tedious as studying to become a surgeon or a doctor, music therapists have to have a well-rounded knowledge of psychology and various instruments in order to enter the professions. According to Michigan State University, non-musical requirements of obtaining a Bachelors Degree in music therapy by MSU include psychology, special education, and health science. Not only do they have to meet those requirements, but they also have to work for hands-on with other professional music therapists at a hospital or clinic in order to graduate.
Music therapy can help which several cases of mental health. Here, we are going to go over the ways it can help depression and anxiety. According to the American Music Therapy Association, patients using music therapy for depression or anxiety are able to use music as a form of communication and expression. Being able to communicate and express feelings is one of the most important things a personally dealing with anxiety or depression can do. Music therapy has also helped people dealing with those issues increase self-esteem and confidence, motivation, decrease anxiety and depression, as a safe emotional outlet. Central Finland Health Care District conducted a studying of patients treating anxiety and depression receiving standard care vs. patients receiving music therapy as well as standard care. The study lasted three months, and the patients who received music therapy showed signification improvement in their overall mental health vs. the patients who did not receive music therapy. Music therapy not only aims to calm an individual but also forces the individual to apply movement while singing or playing an instrument. The movement alone helps with aiding off depression, and the joy music therapy brings individuals results in a significant boost of dopamine which is the chemical in your brain associated with the feelings of pleasure and reward. As a musician myself, I can vouch for the positive effects music has on an individual dealing with depression and/or anxiety. There have been times where I have been down, but the movement of playing the instrument, and creating something new has turned my mood around completely. Not only did it give me a sense of reward (hence the dopamine), but it also helped me with my confidence and self-esteem.
Music therapy is another great resource for people living with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) which is a life long developmental and neurological disorder. ASD also affects how an individual interacts with others, learns, and communicates. Music therapy helps address the physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs of the individual who has ASD. It has been proven that music therapy had helped people with ASD get better with language comprehension and a reduction of meaningless speech. It has also helped individuals with communicating and as well as social skills. Music therapy has been popular amongst individuals with ASD due to its ability to strengthen both the left and right brain. Music encourages interaction and communication with other individuals, which is something people with autism has trouble doing. It is usually normal for the person to create a bond with the musical object first and then slowly open up to sharing their instrument with others. Music therapy helps provide an environment of structure and consistency which is crucial in the everyday life of living with ASD. People with ASD could be extremely intelligent, talented, or both. There have also been several people with ASD to be considered musical savants.
For those suffering from Alzheimer’s, music therapy is a great resource to improve one’s mood and increase cognitive skills. Those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease experience a significant amount of memory loss, ask or say repetitive questions or statements, and also go through behavioral and personality changes. Music has helped those with Alzheimer’s participate in the exercise by dancing along to the music. When Alzheimer’s patients hear sounds or songs that ring the bell of nostalgia, it is as if they see the patient ‘wake up’. Sounds and songs from the past have helped people with Alzheimer’s become engaged with their surroundings as well as interact with others. As Alzheimer’s worsens, many forget who their loved ones are let alone their own name. But these sounds bring help them access a part of their brain that brings memories or events, people, or even their own name and who they are, back to them. A retired radio DJ returned home to help her mother take care of her father who was suffering from Alzheimer’s. She decided to do her own experiment on the power of music on her father. The days she would play the jazz classic ‘In The Wee Small Hours’, her father would wake up knowing who he was, who his wife and daughter were as well as where he was. On the days she would not wake her father up with the music, it was as if he was in a disarray and often asked where he was and who certain individuals were. From then on his daughter woke him up every morning with the Frank Sinatra classic.
Music therapy has been used for people dealing with chronic pain. Through the participation of musical activity, people suffering from chronic pain would use less pain medication. It also helped with blood pressure, heart rate as well and help them find some peace of mind. With the opioid epidemic currently going on in America, doctors are working on ways to help those suffering from chronic pain, slowly wean off the opioids through music therapy. Putting on enjoyable music cause dopamine to flow and creates a healthy state for those in pain not wanting to use, or using very little medication to kill the pain.