Music therapy is a beneficial practice that helps improve mental and physical health, cognitive skills and emotional understanding.
Benefits of music therapy include reducing stress, easing symptoms of depression, slowing your heart rate and a decrease in blood pressure. It can also relieve pain, improve senses for people with autism and helping Alzheimer’s patients to recall memories.
Music therapy is greatly beneficial for both physical and mental health. It also helps many to function better within day-to-day life and can help with many illnesses. Even simply listening to music can be beneficial.
Different types of music therapy
How does music therapy work?
Music therapy is where a professional music therapist uses music to help an individual achieve their personal goals. These are typically related to their mental wellbeing, such as reducing stress and helping recovery from depression.
As well as improving mental health, it can help someone with autism express themselves. It can also help memory function for an Alzheimer’s sufferer. Many hospitals also use music therapy as a way to manage and reduce pain for patients.
Music therapy aims to improve the patient’s overall health. It educates them on how to manage emotions by changing negative thoughts into positive ones through the medium of music.
Music therapy for stress
Music can be used to reduce stress by slowing down your heart rate. It can affect how your brainwaves behave and this also impacts on other parts of the body too, such as the cardiovascular system.
For example, a song with a slow and steady BPM (beats per minute) can help to slow down breathing, leaving you feeling calm.
Music therapy can also help relieve chronic stress. Pairing it with meditation can reduce anxiety and stress. The music used for this method is often peaceful and has an acoustic or percussive feel, such as using wind chimes, a harp or piano.
Using music therapy to relieve stress can also be carried out with a self-help approach. There are soothing music compilations anyone can access on both Spotify and YouTube. These compilations can create a peaceful environment and remove stress.
Music therapy for depression
Music therapy can relieve depressive symptoms and helping the recovery period. Research has shown that music therapy is beneficial as it can boost self-esteem and increase motivation. This helps because better self-esteem and feeling more motivated can lift a low mood.
The musical elements within therapy, such as melody, rhythm and harmony can stimulate a person’s senses. It can do this in a way that helps lift a depressive mood and clears the mind (Everyday Health).
Music therapy is also beneficial for low mood. because listening to or playing music brings about feelings of familiarity and security. These are emotions that can stabilise how someone with depression may feel.
Music therapy for autism
There are many positive outcomes and benefits of music therapy for autism. Music therapy has been described as a risk-free approach. This means that the person taking part in the therapy can easily access treatment and feel comfortable knowing that it’s not a disruptive or invasive process.
Music therapists are able to build a relationship with adults and children on the autistic spectrum. Their expertise can reduce anxiety and further develop communication skills. For example, a therapist can recognise someone’s preferred music and interact with them through this connection.
Music therapy can also improve sensory skills for an individual with autism. Sensory music therapy is a flexible method that helps someone to regulate their brain processes, improving how they sort their thoughts.
The overall benefit of sensory music therapy is that someone with autism can then adapt more easily to their environment. In particular, the use of ambient sounds such as crashing waves, rain falling or the crackle of a bonfire helps someone to feel confident in an otherwise overwhelming surrounding.
Music therapy for Alzheimer’s
Alzheimer’s symptoms can be addressed by improving memory recall. Research has highlighted that music therapy can bring up certain memories for those suffering from Alzheimer’s.
Someone with Alzheimer’s might struggle to express themselves through a sentence. However, they still may be able to sing through a whole song without any problem.
A particular case study that looked into the benefits of music therapy for Alzheimer’s discovered that patients were able to recall specific memories and emotions after singing classic hits and musical songs.
Neurologist, Oliver Sacks, has shared that ‘musical perception, musical sensibility, musical emotion and musical memory’ can stay when other parts of the memory disappear. Sacks also explains that music therapy for Alzheimer’s is beneficial due to how deeply music imprints itself onto the brain.
In 2010, a case study by Boston University suggested that music could help Alzheimer’s sufferers remember small amounts of new information. Patients were given lyrics to learn and when they learnt the lyrics alongside music, they were able to recall them better.
Moving forward, this could help patients to remember important tasks such as taking medication by associating it to a simple tune.
The advantages and disadvantages of music therapy
Music therapy benefits many people in different ways. It’s important to understand that like many other therapeutic approaches, there are advantages and disadvantages.
Advantages of music therapy
Music therapy can benefit a child’s development. It can be used to help redirect a child’s behavioural patterns, improve their communication skills, social interaction and cognitive
It can also improve an individual’s emotional understanding. For example, when someone listens to a favourite song it can bring about positive feelings.
Music therapy can relieve someone of depressive symptoms. Music, through therapy, can reduce blood pressure and provide a sense of calm, easing any signs of low mood.
When it comes to interacting with others, music therapy is an effective tool in building relationships and making connections. Often, this is because it helps a person feel more comfortable within the environment they are in.
The music therapy approach helps individuals with autism to improve sensory skills, communicate how they feel, increase concentration and to interact with those around them.
When music therapy is being held through a group session, it is beneficial for improving social skills. A group member can share their most-loved song and another person who enjoys similar music can connect with them through this.
Disadvantages of music therapy
If you have a hearing problem, music therapy will not be as effective. Listening to music excessively can also cause hearing issues if it is too loud. Keeping the music at a safe volume is important.
Although memory recall is an important skill, music therapy can also trigger previous memories that are distressing, causing someone to feel sad, angry or stressed.
Music has a large variety of different genres, so everyone has a different preference of what music they enjoy during a therapy session.
Where one person will enjoy a particular slow ballad because it relaxes them, someone else could find that the song reminds them of a sad situation. In which case, anxiety levels can increase.
There is research that suggests music helps patients with Alzheimer’s and dementia. However, there is a concern that music therapy can also cause an individual to recall false memories. This outcome can cause confusion and further disrupt their memory function.
Music therapy has the potential to be over-stimulating for someone with depression. Indulging in listening to sad songs can increase low mood and worsen a state of anxiety. Although it’s cathartic in moderation, it’s important that music doesn’t accelerate depressive symptoms.
Lyrics are an important focus when taking part in music therapy. However, some lyrics can imply negative behaviours or actions. Listening to the lyrics and exploring what they mean is a beneficial part of the therapeutic process. Therefore, it’s important that these lyrics are carefully considered and do not become misleading.
What is the point of music therapy?
Music therapy is a great potential option for all the mental health conditions that we have mentioned. If it is effective then it can be a brilliant alternative to more drastic treatments, such as heavy medication.
Music therapy could also be used in conjunction with other forms of therapy, such as CBT, to help improve the chances of both being successful.
How does music therapy work?
Music therapy works by using melody, rhythm and instruments to reduce blood pressure, slow down breathing and positively change behavioural patterns.
It has been proven that rhythm can slow down someone’s heart rate. This reduces levels of anxiety and improves depressive symptoms.
Certain music genres, artists or lyrics reach out to individual’s in a positive way or can trigger happy memories. This can help people connect, develop their cognitive skills and lift their mood.
Overall, music has a strong ability to relate to many, whether it is through a sentimental memory or because the song’s musical elements are having a positive physical effect.
Music resides in a resilient part of the brain. As a therapy, it works on improving mental, emotional and physical health.
How can listening to music benefit you?
You can benefit from listening to music because the songs you choose to listen to can bring about positive feelings and remove any stress.
Physically, listening to music that has an upbeat rhythm can be motivational and help set your heart rate so you are ready for a fitness workout. On the other hand, listening to slower rhythms are beneficial in slowing down breathing and placing your body into a calm state.
Listening to music can involve relating to the lyrics. Many lyrics reach out and can help facilitate reflection on how the song makes you feel. This process is highly beneficial for emotional growth.
How can music therapy help your mood?
Music therapy helps your mood by lifting it. Whether it’s through listening to a tranquil instrumental piece or enjoying a positive and upbeat pop track, music therapy focuses on using musical elements to regulate emotions.
Music has been scientifically proven to affect brainwaves. Brainwaves direct behavioural patterns, so music therapy can help redirect this to change how someone feels about a situation. For example, a circumstance that once made an individual feel anxious or low can have very little impact on their mood after a course of music therapy.
What music do you find therapeutic? Share in the comments below.