Unpacking Music Therapy

May 24, 2023

Music therapy involves the use of music to deal with physical, mental and emotional needs. It serves as a treatment that aids with multiple disorders, ranging from autism, depression and Alzheimer’s disease. Music is used while listening to instruments, singing, playing or even composing. It is a relatively new form of therapy, developed once clinical research was presented on the benefits of music. It has always been recognized in a positive light, with people as early as seventeenth century English dramatist William Congreve acknowledging music as a “charm to soothe”. Music has very powerful effects on the mood, inducing a variety of emotions from happiness and serenity to sadness.

Music therapy can be seen as a form of CBT (Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy). Therapists utilize the positive changes in mood and translate that to patterns of thinking and behavior. The music is processed by different regions in the brain, such as the reward center which can cause strong mental and physical reactions of pleasure. It can be seen as a form of communication as well – this specifically helps those with dysfunctional speech and expression. This can be due to dementia, brain injury or autism. If CBT and counseling (which involve verbal communication) may not help improve individuals, they can turn to music therapy instead.

Smiling female soung healer playing percussion instrument at studio

Getty Images/ Westend61/ Westend61

There are multiple benefits of this form of therapy. Physical advantages include reducing blood pressure, lowering muscle tension and pain regulation. The cognitive benefits are almost countless. It leads to improved memory, better communication skills, self-reflection alongside increased motivation and joy. There is a greater sense of achievement if one is able to learn instruments or create a piece of music, which can increase coordination in other fields. All these benefits combine to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, making music therapy an extremely effective form of treatment.