July 14, 2022 By Avery Pierce-Garnett, CDHD Interdisciplinary Trainee The benefits of music therapy Did you know that music can be used to help improve different aspects of your life? Music therapy is a form of therapy that uses music-based experiences to address individual needs. Whether it’s positive communication experiences or pain management, there are many ways it can be applied. Working in the field of music therapy can be magical when watching people come out of their ‘zone’. As a student studying music, I am keenly interested in how it can be used to improve quality of life. Here’s a quick overview of some of the benefits music therapy can have for some people. Music therapy and communication Music therapy can be used as a form of communication from pre-birth to death. For example, when babies are in the womb, they’re already responding to music that the mother is listening to. Using musical ideas with the voice can help to make communication and interaction easier for some. It can be used as a mnemonic device that, when associated with information, makes it easier to retain and recall that information. Singing can make it easier to recite certain words that some might find difficult. Setting words to music can make them easier to remember and come more naturally, while supporting breathing, pronunciation and timing. It can also be used to communicate feelings such as happiness. Certain kinds of music can create different emotions. For example, listening to salsa music can increase a sense of joy. Or putting on a ballad could make a person feel longing or sadness. Using therapy to manage pain Some patients have found music therapy helpful in managing their pain. The idea is that a patient chooses their own music to listen to through high quality equipment. This provides distraction that can help alleviate the pain they’re feeling. It can help manage discomfort by promoting stimulation and relaxation that helps the brain refocus. Studies have even shown that sound vibrations can help manage pain. In an article written for Psychology Today, author Marlynn Wel, MD, JD, discusses how sound helps some patients “improve mobility, reduce muscle pain and stiffness, increase blood circulation and lower blood pressure.” Accessibility of music therapy Music can be an effective tool in helping people with disabilities by improving cognitive skills, speech and communication, motor skills and social skills. It can be used to help patients learn and practice particular sounds, understand patterns of language and improve memory. Patients can practice fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination through playing instruments. And singing and song stories can be used to help build confidence and social awareness. Connections creating success As with most types of therapy, it can be necessary to develop a connection between the therapist and the client. The quality of treatment can differ from each person based on their attitudes towards the therapist according to Effects of Music Therapy and Music-Based Interventions in the Treatment of Substance Use Disorders: A Systematic Review. The better the attitudes, the more cooperation there will be. Time will be used more efficiently. The relationship between the client and therapist is heavily involved in the treatment. As in everyday life, being able to work with one another is important in completing tasks and achieving goals. Creating connections outside the therapist-client relationship is also important. Not only do patients need support from their caregiver(s), but support from family members also helps the effects of therapy. These connections can help build confidence in treatment and increase communication that can be valuable in tailoring therapy to suit individual needs. Effectiveness of music therapy It should be noted that the effectiveness of music therapy is different from patient to patient. Some may find it incredibly helpful while others may not. As with many types of therapy, the diversity of treatment, providers and conditions all factor in to finding the right balance.