Shakespeare once said, “If music be the food of love, play on”. The power of music over the human mind is enormous, and that’s putting it lightly. Music therapy is the use of music for therapeutic purposes by a trained professional. The idea of using music as a healing influence dates back to the time of Plato and Aristotle. In the modern world, music for therapy came to the fore when musicians played for war veterans to cure them of physical and emotional trauma. Since many of the patients responded well, nurses and doctors began requesting the services of musicians for therapy.
Soon, music therapy became recognized as an effective and scientifically-backed mode of treatment. The first music therapy degree program ever was established in 1944 in the State of Michigan, U.S.
A trained music therapist gauges the emotional well-being, physical health, social functioning and cognitive skills through the patient’s responses to music. Once the assessment is complete, the practitioner designs music session for individuals or groups. The therapeutic music is prepared based on client needs and uses music improvisation, song writing, lyric discussion, imagery and musical performances.
Using music for therapy can be a very powerful way to reach children and adolescents. Elderly people and people with developmental and learning disabilities, people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and age related problems and people in acute pain also benefit from music therapy. Music therapy is a powerful way to help people express their feelings.
Professional music therapists are usually found in rehabilitative facilities, psychiatric hospitals, medical hospitals, drug and alcohol programs, nursing homes, correctional facilities, schools and private practice.
Some people mistakenly believe that a patient needs to have some particular musical ability to benefit from therapy. There is no one particular style of music that is more therapeutic than the rest. Any style of music can be equally effective. Any person can be a patient. The patient’s background, needs and history help determine the type of music used.
Even healthy people can make use of the healing powers of music. Listening to or making music, playing or drumming can greatly reduce stress and improve productivity. Research shows that music is a vital support for physical exercise. Music therapy is even said to assist labor and delivery.
In hospitals, music therapy is used to alleviate pain and is often used in conjunction with anesthesia or pain medication. A question that is often raised is why use music if anesthesia does the same thing? Music helps because it dissolves emotional barriers and elevates the patient’s mood. Music also counteracts depression, calms and even sedates patients. In a nutshell, music helps reduce muscle tension and brings on a deep and satisfying relaxation.
Since 1994 music therapy has been identified as a reimbursable service in the U.S. Music therapy is considered ‘active treatment’ when it meets the following criteria:
- Is prescribed by a physician
- Is reasonably necessary for the treatment of the injury or condition
- Is based on a documented treatment plan
- Is showing some sort of result in the patient
The future of music therapy is indeed very promising as more and more research supports the effectiveness of music against diseases like Alzheimer’s and chronic pain.