Beyond being a beautiful soundtrack to our lives, music might heal us on a cellular level. You might have felt some healing from listening to your favorite song, perhaps experiencing a soothing sensation during a time of stress. That’s not a fluke scenario, as Music Therapy has potent benefits and can act as a form of alternative or complementary medicine.
What is Music Therapy exactly? The concept itself began ages ago but has found its stride in recent years. Certified music therapists, who tend to be trained and professional musicians, now offer their talents in a healing capacity. The therapy looks different every day.
One day, a music therapist might sing to a patient. The next day, they play the drums, a banjo, and piano at three separate sessions. Music Therapy can be shared easily through modern technology, like portable speakers and an iPhone, so it’s somewhat accessible for most individuals.
Music Therapy’s benefits extend from anxiety to Alzheimer’s and have been shown to work wonders in different realms of health and treatment. Here are a few benefits brought about by Music Therapy:
Lessen anxious tendencies
When undergoing surgeries or lengthy treatment routes, people tend to experience some form of anxiety. Anxiety might appear in an individual as a quickened heart rate, increased sweating, or a panic scenario. Patients who listen to music before their procedure tend to experience less anxiety and require fewer sedatives. If a patient heard music in the operating room, they tend to share later on that there was not as much discomfort as they expected during their procedure.
If you aren’t prepping for surgery or going through treatment, music can still be of benefit. Being able to tune external noise out for a bit of time can soothe individuals who often find themselves overwhelmed in lively or public environments.
Soothe general stress symptoms
Typical symptoms of stress are:
- Muscle tension
- Sleep disturbances
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Social withdrawal
Music Therapy has shown its benefit include the following, all of which can combat the above stress symptoms (Koelsch et al., 2009):
- Improve a patient’s communication
- Enhance a patient’s cognition
- Induce relaxation and pleasure
Uplift individuals with Alzheimer’s Disease
Engaging with music remains a possibility in the later stages of Alzheimer’s or dementia. Specific songs, in all individuals, often bring up memories of a person, place, or event. The memory can be decades old, but the song evokes remembrance of that day or moment in time.
When individuals with Alzheimer’s listen to music, some memories can be brought to the surface when they usually would be difficult to stir. With memories brought up, agitation lessens, communication steadies, and physical wellbeing improves.
The benefits mentioned above are linked to one’s quality of life. When it comes to Alzheimer’s patients, there is a direct link between the quality of life and longevity. What might seem like a minimal improvement in demeanor or physical health can be more profound than one might assume.
Reduce the side effects of chemotherapy
The reduction in side effects primarily links back to the experience of anxiety reduction, similar to the concepts shared a few points back. Another benefit of Music Therapy unique to chemotherapy and radiation patients? Listening in can ease nausea and reduce vomiting. Again, such reductions offer an improvement in overall quality of life and extend beyond surface-level improvements.
Individuals with chronic pain often lean into alternative and complementary methods of healing to fully explore all of their options. Music Therapy stands as a respectable option for such alternative healing and seems to offer pain relief to individuals experiencing pain from arthritis.
Suzanne Hanser, EdD MT-BC, from Berklee College of Music can explain how music relieves pain. The theories are linked to a cognitive-behavioral model of therapy. Inviting in new perspectives, thoughts, and sensations can rewire and shift dated patterns that do not serve a patient’s best interest. Weaving in added relaxation exercises, as well, can improve a patient’s mood and lessen the painful sensations.
Beyond being the background noise of much of our daily lives, as we drive in the car and hit the gym, music offers its melodies and notes to those in need of pain relief and healing. As time goes on, Music Therapy walks a path that will only grow in its benefits and range. Music Therapy can be found in schools, prisons, doctors’ offices, coaching, training, and more.