Using Music as Therapy
as a Tool for Healing

Music As Therapy

History of Music Therapy

Researchers have finally discovered that using music as therapy can be quite effective for healing.

We’ve long known that music can be a soothing or stimulating influence.

It can make us laugh, cry, feel energized or calmed, hyper or meditative, angry or serene.

Music is something which taps deeply into our emotional core as human beings.

Using music as a healing therapy is as old as the days of Aristotle and Plato.

The earliest known reference to music as therapy was an article written in 1789. In the early 1800’s articles written on the therapeutic value of music were beginning to be written in medical journals.

It wasn’t until the 1940’s that music as therapy was to begin to be organized into a clinical profession.

In the United States, using music for its healing powers began after both World War 1 and World War 2, when musicians of all types would visit the VA hospitals to help ease the pain, monotony and loneliness that was found there. There was much suffering going on in the hospitals, in the form of physical as well as emotional traumas. The musicians were making such an impact on the health of the veterans, that the doctors kept requesting them to come back.

It still took a lot of hard work and time until music therapy, in 1983, was seen as legitimate enough to form a certification board. There are now over 5000 board certified music therapists in this country, and growing all the time.

Music is now a legitimate therapy to treat cognitive, emotional, physical and social needs of people.

Music As Therapy for Healing and Growing

Music helps those who cannot communicate, such as children and adults with autism, to relate to others.

Music as therapy in the form of

dancing,

moving, 

stretching, 

singing,

humming,

banging on something,

listening with headphones,

or meditating,

can all become an outlet for patients to express their feelings.

The rhythmic movement to music can help develop coordination, agility and balance.

Singing helps to develop memory and social skills.

It has been proven that students learn quicker and absorb information faster when allowed to listen to music they like.

Music as therapy has also been proven to improve behavior, decrease agitation, increase attention, increase socialization and self expression, and improve cognitive functioning.

Music Therapy for Infants

Think about the way that a lullaby can soothe a child to sleep; they are also soothing to adults who hear them.

A study published in the journal Pediatrics in 2013 stated that music can be calming to both premature infants and their parents.

In fact, it may also play a role in improving the eating and sleeping routines of infants, as well as reducing the stress that their parents are experiencing.

Music has been shown to help premature infants with weight gain and improve their sleeping patterns.

A study was conducted at the Louis Armstrong Center for Music and Medicine at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York. Researchers discovered that music played in heartbeat rhythms and with a device which simulates the sounds a baby might hear in the womb were effective at calming and slowing the heart rates of infants, and also that the sound of their parents singing a lullaby worked best of all.

Reducing Stress and Pain and other Symptoms

It’s not just infants that music has this therapeutic effect on.

There is a growing body of evidence that music can be beneficial for both physical and mental health in adults.

Studies suggest that music can improve immune function and reduce pre-surgical anxiety more effectively than prescription medications.

Music can reduce our levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, and even reduce pain, according to a 2013 study published in the journal Progress In Palliative Care.

Music as therapy has been shown to help older adults to reduce the effects of dementia and Alzheimer’s.

It has been proven to be helpful to reduce asthma episodes and reduce attacks.

Music has been shown to help those with Parkinson’s diseases to improve their motor functioning abilities.

Dr Oliver Sacks, whom the movie Awakenings was based on, researched, studied and reported that patients with neurological disorders who cannot talk or move are often able to sing and sometimes even dance, to music.

He regarded “music therapy as a tool of great power in many neurological disorders - Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s - because of it’s unique capacity to organize or reorganize cerebral functions when it has been damaged.”

Music can often provide an outlet to people who are otherwise withdrawn.

Vibro-acoustic Therapy

Like all sound, music is vibration.

The effects of these vibrations are being studied at the University of Toronto, among others. Researchers are looking into whether absorbing the vibrations of sound could be therapeutic for patients suffering from depression, Parkinson’s disease and fibromyalgia, among other conditions. The patients are exposed to ultra low frequency sounds and so far, the results are promising. Parkinson’s disease patients experienced reduced tremors, improved gait and less rigidity.

According to University of Toronto researchers, some patients with memory loss linked to neurological disease have experienced an improvement in memory and mental clarity.

Clearly, music therapy is making its way into the mainstream of western medicine, just as other therapies once thought of as alternative.

It’s no secret that music can do wonders for your mood, emotional balance and stress levels – and the more we learn about the physiological effects of music on the human body, the closer we come to the day when our physicians may even prescribe an album or a concert rather than a medication for some conditions.

Until then, you know what music makes you feel good – make it a part of your daily wellness routine!

Music As Therapy

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