The World of Music Therapy

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Showcasing the use and the benefits of music therapy.

In honour of World Music Day, Private Practice Hub wanted to highlight and spread awareness of the benefits of this type of therapy so that you can think about the different ways you could implement it into your practice. 

Classical Music, Notes, Mozart, Music, Music Sheet

What is music therapy?

A tool such as music has such a wide range of uses but a few of the mainstream ways in which Music Therapy is implemented are:

  • Through composing music in therapy. 
  • Listening to and/or discussing music. 
  • Dancing. 
  • Singing. 

Each of these applications have different benefits, and are included in a wide range of therapies all used to treat specific ailments, or simply used as a therapy tool to support talking therapy. 

Music and dementia

Analytical music therapy is good for the purpose of supporting talking therapy through encouraging clients to engage in a musical “dialogue” to express unconscious thoughts, which can be reflected on and discussed with a therapist afterward. The dialogue can be expressed through lyrics or through instruments to convey a mood. 

The Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy Charity uses music therapy as a means to improve communication in clients of all ages through a type of Music Therapy also known as Creative Music Therapy, in which a client is asked to play an instrument, often a cymbal or drum, while a therapist accompanies using another instrument. The improvisational process uses music as a way to help enable self-expression and build confidence. 

Nordoff-Robbins has said that they have witnessed incredible changes in their clients when Music Therapy is used consistently, citing great success when treating children that struggle to communicate and haven’t spoken their first word and elderly patients with dementia. BACP has also cited success with dementia patients:   

“An older person frightened by the isolation and confusion brought on by dementia can, through the powerfully evocative nature of music, connect with these memories again and share these with others.” 

Is music a natural mood enhancer?

There are instances in therapy where rather than composing music, simply listening to it can be helpful to a client, such as the Bonny method of Guided Imagery and Music (GIM), that uses music to stimulate a subject’s imagination. While listening to classical music, they explain the memories, the imagery and the feelings that they experience as the music plays in order to, according to Appalachian State University’s training programme, “access and explore both the depths and the heights of the human experience”. 

In addition to aiding with communication, Music Therapy has been used in treatments for anxiety and depression, a study in Canada’s McGill University discovered in 2011 that

 listening to “agreeable” music encourages the production of the beneficial brain chemical, dopamine. 

Can music reduce blood pressure?

Even more exciting, research posted in the German Medical Association’s official international bilingual science journal, Deutsches Ärzteblatt, suggests that listening to Mozart and Strauss for 25 minutes lowered systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Further supporting this, a separate study in Oxford University has said to have discovered that slow classical music that follows a ten-second rhythm has a significant impact in reducing blood pressure and heart rate, meaning with more research, music could even be prescribed as an aid to hypertension one day.

A new form of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy known as CBMT (Cognitive Behavioural Music Therapy) implements music by using it to reinforce certain behaviours in a subject and dissuade others. This method of treatment is intended to be structured and not improvisational, and includes a range of activities from playing music, to dancing, to singing. Also an aid in treating depression, Community Music Therapy, in which a community of people gather to listen to, dance to, or compose their own music, can be prescribed to people by their GP. Under a ‘social prescription’ individuals suffering from all kinds of ailments are prescribed social activities such as Music Therapy, dance, gardening or Yoga in order to better their mental and physical health in a holistic manner. 

Music therapy for heart and mind

The impact of music on the mind and body is undeniable. With an overwhelming amount of research being conducted to delve into the effects of listening to music and the transformative power it holds for so many suffering with difficulties with communication, memory and even those with physical ailments, alongside the use of music in today’s current therapies, it is truly exciting to see what will come next.

The British Association of Music Therapy (BAMT) describes Music Therapy as an established psychological clinical intervention that can be used to help people whose lives have been affected by injury, illness or disability.  

Music is such a diverse artform. The way that music can be used in therapy has almost no limit – it can be used for communication, to create understanding, to lift mood and to even help with physical ailments.

Dr. Annie Heidersheit, a board certified music therapist, with degrees in music therapy and education and counselling, has told the University of Minnesota: 

“Music therapy is the use of music to address the physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs of a group or individual. It employs a variety of activities, such as listening to melodies, playing an instrument, drumming, writing songs, and guided imagery. Music therapy is appropriate for people of all ages, whether they are virtuosos or tone deaf, struggling with illnesses or totally healthy.”

A big ‘Happy World Music Day’ from us at Private Practice Hub! Join us today for more therapy news, and advice on running your practice.

Article written by Maisie Violet Wicks, BA Hons, columnist for Private Practice Hub. Please contact newsdesk@privatepracticehub.co.uk

References: 

Bamt.org. 2021. British Association for Music Therapy :: What is Music Therapy?. [online] Available at: <https://www.bamt.org/music-therapy/what-is-music-therapy> [Accessed 18 June 2021].

Didge Project. 2021. Doctors Now Prescribing Music Therapy for Heart Ailments, Brain Dysfunction, Learning Disabilities, Depression, PTSD, Alzheimers, Childhood Development and More – Didge Project. [online] Available at: <https://www.didgeproject.com/therapeutics/doctors-now-prescribing-music-for-heart-ailments-brain-dysfunction-learning-disabilities-depression-ptsd-alzheimers-and-more/> [Accessed 18 June 2021].

The Bonny Method of Guided Imagery and Music. 2021. The Bonny Method of Guided Imagery and Music. [online] Available at: <https://music.appstate.edu/academics/special-programs/bonny-method> [Accessed 18 June 2021].

Trappe, H. and Voit, G., 2021. The Cardiovascular Effect of Musical Genres (20.05.2016). [online] Deutsches Arzteblatt. Available at: <https://www.aerzteblatt.de/int/archive/article?id=179298> [Accessed 18 June 2021].

Nordoff Robbins. 2021. UK’s Largest Independent Music Therapy Charity | Home | Nordoff Robbins. [online] Available at: <https://www.nordoff-robbins.org.uk/> [Accessed 18 June 2021].

Music Mark. 2021. Verdi, Beethoven and Puccini could help beat heart disease | Music Mark. [online] Available at: <https://www.musicmark.org.uk/news/verdi-beethoven-and-puccini-could-help-beat-heart-disease/> [Accessed 18 June 2021].

Taking Charge of Your Health & Wellbeing. 2021. What is music therapy? | Taking Charge of Your Health & Wellbeing. [online] Available at: <https://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/common-questions/what-music-therapy> [Accessed 18 June 2021].

Verywell Mind. 2021. What to Know About Music Therapy. [online] Available at: <https://www.verywellmind.com/benefits-of-music-therapy-89829> [Accessed 18 June 2021].Psychology Today. 2021. Why Listening to Music Makes Us Feel Good. [online] Available at: <https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/your-musical-self/201101/why-listening-music-makes-us-feel-good> [Accessed 18 June 2021].