Music Therapy


            It might sound like something out of a movie; however, music therapy is something that is quite real. It is an evidence-based practice of using music to help with patients with various types of illnesses and disorders. The thing to note is that music has been hailed as a universal language, which means that people are able to communicate with each other using music as well. Music tends to have many different characteristics and traits and these can be used to help the patients in terms of spiritual as well as physical and emotional healing. Various cases have been reported and recorded in which patients have been able to improve various domains, such as their social, cognitive, communicative, as well as sensory aspects through the use of music therapy. Patients have been to use both active as well as receptive musical experiences to help with their particular problems. It has to be noted that music therapy practices include working with many different types of clients, including children, adults, and the elderly. Research has shown that music therapy can help the patients relax as well as go through physical rehabilitation as well. Music therapy is used in many different hospitals and clinics, as well as in schools, addiction rehabilitation centers, cancer clinics, as well as in psychiatric institutions. Music therapy has also noted to help prisoners in various types of correctional facilities.

            Various researches have been conducted and they have all concluded that music therapy can be extremely beneficial for all types of individuals and that it helps the patients both in terms of their physical betterment as well as their mental wellbeing. It has been found that patients undergoing music therapy have shown improvements in their heart rates, as well as their anxiety being reduced. Music therapy is also used with children to improve their learning and to help adults reduce stress. For example, one of the studies showed that when children were exposed to music through an intravenous insertion showed much less distress and felt much less pain compared to children who were given the IV insertion without music (Novotney, 2019). Moreover, it has also been found that various patients of mental disorders, such as depression (Aalbers et al., 2017), anxiety and even schizophrenia have noted a lot of improvement in their mental health after undergoing music therapy (Geretsegger et al., 2017).

Types of Music Therapies

            Two main types of music therapies are mostly used in the clinical setting. These include receptive therapy as well as active therapy. Active therapy is also referred to as expressive music therapy.

Active Therapy

In active therapy, the clients or the patients make music by using various instruments or by singing (Ansdell, 2016). Various researchers have concluded that such type of music therapy can help patients of various different disorders, such as those that have Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (COPD) can benefit from playing wind instruments, such as harmonica or a flute. This is because blowing on the musical instrument to make the music helps the patients to use their lungs more and more effectively. Other than that, many patients who have motor problems, such as those rehabilitating after an accident, are also given active music therapy where they use various instruments, such as a harp or a guitar, to help them get their motor abilities back (Thaut, McIntosh & Hoemberg, 2015).


On the other hand, receptive music therapy refers to when the patients or clients listen to music, whether live or recorded (Ansdell, 2016). The therapist who is administering the music therapy carefully chooses the music that the patients should hear. There tends to be some disagreement about how exactly this type of music therapy works. However, most of the researchers agree that even though receptive music therapy might not be able to help a person heal, it does help in the coping skills of the patients, such as by decreasing the amount of pain and stress felt, as well as improving mood and increasing relaxation while decreasing anxiety.

Music Therapy and Children

            Research has shown that music therapy works really well with children and the adolescents. There have been various researches that have concluded that music therapy can be used with adolescence to treat various types of disorders, such as eating disorders, mood/anxiety disorders, as well as to help the children overcoming various problematic behaviors, such as suicidal behaviors, alcohol and substance abuse (Hohmann et al., 2017), aggression, social isolation, running away from home, as well as withdrawal from the family. The main goals of using music therapy with such children and adolescence are to ensure that the children become more aware of their emotions and moos. This is something that allows the students to have better creativity and for them to be able to better express them. Other than that, some of the children also tend to have various listening issues that hinder their communication. This is where the receptive music therapy comes into play to help the children listen better and therefore have better lives. Music therapy in children and adolescents has also been linked with the children having decreased anxiety and having better decision-making skills and self-confidence.

            Many different methods of music therapy are used in adolescents and these include having group meetings as well as individual sessions. The clients come together and listen to music, as well as discuss their moods and emotions that they feel about the music that they are listening to. Moreover, they also discuss amongst themselves what the meaning of various songs might be. The children are also encouraged to write songs in terms of lyrics and also come up with composing the music. Musical improvisation is also something that is encouraged. If the therapy is being conducted on an individual basis, the therapists work to provide much more personal attention to the children. The therapists tend to use music that the adolescents are able to relate to, which can include various popular genres of music, such as rock, pop, rap, and other types of music. The therapists have to choose music that he or she deems to be safe and appropriate for the therapy.

Premature infants

            One of the most interesting way in which music therapy works with children is with regards to premature infants. Premature infants are depicted that infants that are born earlier than their regular due date and since they are not fully developed before they are born, they can have many different health care issues, such as not having strong lungs, not having enough body fat/muscles as well as not being able to feed themselves properly. In many of the premature infants, the motor skills are not fully developed, which means that they are not able to suck and breathe in tandem (Bieleninik, Ghetti & Gold, 2016). This makes feeding extremely difficult, as the infants are not able to adequately feed themselves. In this regard, we find that music therapy has been noted to help such children in many different ways.

            It has to be noted that there are five main techniques that are used in music therapy to help the premature infants.

            1. Live or recorded music. Research has shown that live as well as recorded music helps the infants in terms of their oxygen saturation levels increasing as well as helps with respiratory regularity. Moreover, neonatal distress is also something that is significantly decreased through live or recorded music. The music used in this regard has to be extremely gentle because of how the infants tend to be extremely sensitive and immature in terms of their listening abilities. Live singing to the infants has been noted to have a lot of good and positive effects on the infants. Furthermore, it has been noted that music also helps to reduce stress and anxiety in the patients. Many parents tend to become stressed about their children being born premature, which is why music has been noted to help soothe such parents as well. Music also helps the mothers to bond with their premature infants in a much more meaningful manner (Bieleninik, Ghetti & Gold, 2016).

            2. Promotion of healthy sucking reflex. Another way in which music therapy is used with premature infants is by using a lullaby device that is activated by the pacifier. This allows music therapists to help the infants have better and stronger sucking reflexes. Many of the premature infants tend to feel pain while sucking and this type of music therapy has been found to help the infants to feel less pain. The prenatal heartbeat sound is often played back in a rhythmic manner to infants and this has been found to help with the feeding as well because of how the infants are able to follow the patterns and tempo (Bieleninik, Ghetti & Gold, 2016).

3. Multimodal stimulation and music. Many of the music therapists work to combine many different types of music, such as lullabies and multi-modal stimulation, and this results in the premature infants being released from the intensive care units much faster compared to infants who did not receive the same therapy. This type of therapy helps the infants to develop various aspects much quicker and it helps with the infants to sleep better, as well as to gain more weight. Research has shown that girls tend to respond much better compared to boys with regards to the multimodal stimulation. In many cases, the therapists stimulate the sound of the womb or the heart and this is something that helps the infants to recover much faster.

4. Parent-infant bonding. Music therapy has also been noted to help parents bond with their infants. The thing to note is that the sounds and noises in the intensive care units can be extremely irritating and problematic for the premature infants. This noise can get into the way of the parents and infants bonding together. The parents are encouraged to sing to the infants, such as singing lullabies to them. This is something that has been noted to have a lot of calming effect on the premature babies. The thing to note is that premature infants need to preserve their energy more compared to other infants because of how many parts of their bodies are not fully developed. When the infants hear their parents’ voice, it calms them and therefore helps them to preserve their energies. Other than that, it has also been noted that singing to the infants is also known to help them with respect to improving their sleep quality as well s their oxygen saturation levels.

5. Infant stimulation. Music therapy can also be used to help stimulate the infants because of lack of normal environmental sensory stimulation that is there in the intensive care units. As noted earlier, the infants can get exposed to various problematic sounds and noises while in the intensive care units and this can create various problems for both the parents as well as for the infants. This type of noise can create issues for the infants and negatively affect their feeding habits as well as their bonding time with their parents. This is why using music therapy can help overcome such problems, as the music is used to cover any and all unwanted noise.

Disorders that are Treated with Music Therapy

            As noted earlier, music therapy can be used to help alleviate the problems and issues related to many different types of illnesses and disorders. It would be useful to look at some of these disorders and how music therapy can be used to help the patients.


            Autism is a set of cognitive and development disorders and it is depicted that it lies on a spectrum. It can be said that there are many different patients who have varying degrees of autism. In this regard, we find that music therapy has been noted to play a very important role in helping patients of autism. Music therapy has been used in terms of the diagnosis of the disorder as well as in terms of helping the patients get better. One of the symptoms that the patients have with autism is that they are not able to properly and adequately move because they have decreased motor skills. In his regard, we find that music therapy has been noted to help the patients with respect to honing their motor skills as well as their attention skills. The socio-communication and interaction skills are also improved because of how the music positively affects the neurodevelopment in patients with autism (Mössler et al., 2019).  



Heart disease

            Various researches have shown that listening to music works to help the patients with heart disease. This is because of how music can be used to improve the heart rate, the respiratory rate, as well as the blood pressure in patients who have coronary heart disease (CHD) as well as other heart diseases and/or issues.


            As noted earlier, music can be used to help in the recovery of motor skills. Stroke is something that can negatively affect a patient’s ability to move. This is why music has been found to be helpful in patients who have had a stroke. Research has shown that patients of stroke who listen to music during their rehabilitation tend to show a much more increase in their standard of living getting better compared to those that did not use music therapy along with other therapies. Moreover, music therapy also works to help reduce depression as well as anxiety in patients suffering from stroke (Aalbers et al., 2017). Other than that, those who indulged in music therapy also who showed a lot of improvement with regards to increase in the strengths of their use of hands and movement. Aside from all these physical aspects, we find that the patients of stroke who were undergoing music therapy were also able to regulate their emotions much better and were able to communicate much better with others, including their caregivers as well.


            Another area in which music therapy has been found to be extremely useful is with dementia patients. Patients with dementia tend to have many issues with their memory. They are not able to remember many routine things while at the same time can also have issues with respect to leading a normal and routine life. For example, the patients can end up forgetting that they have to eat, and also start to forget their loved ones. This can have a lot of negative effects on the quality of life of the patients and it can also be quite problematic for the caregivers as well. In this regard, we find that research has shown that music therapy can help patients of dementia deal with their lives better. The elderly with dementia are able to relax more when they listen to certain types of music. Other than that, we find that the patients of dementia are able to bond better between their peers, doctors, as well as their caregivers and family members. This is because of how music therapy helps the patients to relax and they are able to feel much less confusion because of their condition. Several researches have been able to depict that this effect that music has on patients of dementia can be because of how the music is perceived. For many people, music is a source of entertainment as well as a source of familiarity. Many people tend to remember many of the past events of their lives based on the music that they have heard. When patients of dementia hear music, they are able to relate it to their past and this is something that ends up resulting in the patients becoming much more comfortable in their surrounding (Raglio et al., 2015).


            Aphasia refers to a language disorder that affects people because of brain damage to the frontal lobe. Patients of aphasia are not able to properly converse using words. Research has shown that music therapy can help the patients to stimulate their brain waves and functions and are thus able to converse better. Many of the researchers believe that music actually has the power to heal and this is something that is quite often applied to patients who have aphasia.


Music Therapy Around the World

            It has to be noted that music therapy is something that is not only limited to the US or the Western world. It is something that is being used in many places all over the world. It would be useful to look at some of the regions of the world where music therapy is being used to help patiens.


            Many different African countries, such as Tanzania, South Africa, as well as Zambia have all been using music therapy in a number of different settings. It has to be noted that music plays a very important role in African tradition and culture and it also has its roots in their religion. This is why music, especially the use of drums, is something that is very common in traditional African healing. Many of the earlier African tribes used music in terms of chants to help the patients get better. Other than that, it is important to note that music is seen in the African culture as a way to disseminate stories as well as historical knowledge. This is different compared to how music is mostly seen as being entertainment in the Western world. This is why music has a very important place in healing in African countries as well because of how it is used to help placate the patients, especially during palliative care.


            The aboriginal people of Australia have been known to use music for healing for the past many years, spanning as many as several thousand years in the past. The musical instrument known as didgeridoo or the yidaki has been used in healing of all kinds, including various types of illnesses and even broken bones (Horden, 2017). Even though most of the evidence is circumstantial and passed on through tradition, we find that the aboriginal people in Australia have been using music in their healing practices for the past many thousands of years.


            Several rehabilitation programs in Canada focus on using music to help heal the patients. Various researchers have been working in Canada to come up with various types of therapies that involve the use of music. Other than that, we find that many of the hospitals in Canada, including in Ontario as well as in Quebec, tend to use music therapy to aid their patients in the healing process. Many of the Canadian doctors believe that music is something that works wonders in helping the patients heal even through the most severest of the diseases.


            Music also plays a very important role in Indian culture, especially because of its links to Hindu mythology. Looking at the various Hindu traditions, we find that the use of music is something that has been noted in many different areas. It has been found that music has been used in a therapeutic sense in India for the past several hundred years as well. Other than that, in more recent times, several Indian doctors have been noted to experiment with music and acoustics and they have been able to find a link between music and healing.


            One of the countries in which a lot of research on music therapy has taken place and continues to take place is Norway. Many of the researchers in Norway have focused on the use of music as a healing tool. Two of the world’s leading research centers on music therapy can be found in Norway and these include the Center for Music and Health as well as the Grieg Academy Center for Music Therapy (GAMUT). These institutes and centers are engaged in coming up with new research about how music can be used in the healing process and used to help the patients of various types of illnesses and diseases.

United States

            Music therapy started to be used in the US during the mid 1940s. This is when the first undergraduate program involving music therapy was instituted at the Michigan State University and the first graduate degree program at the University of Kansas. Several organizations, such as the American Music Therapy Association as well as the National Association of Music Therapy exist in the US and these are all working to help come up with new ways in which music can be incorporated in the healing process. Music therapists are usually considered to be social workers and caregivers and they work in tandem with other medical professionals, such as doctors, physicians, as well as other medical professionals to provide a holistic method of helping the patients.

United Kingdom

            Many of the hospitals have been using live music to treat the patients. This began during World War I, when live music was used to help treat recovering patients who had been wounded in the war or had been affected psychologically because of the horrors of the war. This is something that has worked to evolve in the UK and many universities have started offering academic programs for a person to become a music therapist.


            Thus, in conclusion, it can be said that music therapy is something that is being used in many places around the world to help treat many different diseases and ailments. The thing to note about music therapy is that it is not something that tends to physically heal a person of various illnesses; on the other hand, it is something that is used to help the patients come to terms with many of the negative symptoms associated with the illnesses. As noted herein, we find that music can be used to help patients with a variety of different symptoms, such as aggression, motor skill problems, and many others. Music therapy is something has been found to work quite well with children and adolescents in terms of various behavioral problems. In the end, it is important to understand that music is a universal language that works to connect people together. Other than that, music is something that affects the emotional state of being of a person. It is an artistic endeavor that allows for people to be more creative and expressive as well. It is because of all these characteristics of music, we find that it can be said to be an extremely important and useful tool for helping the patients overcome many different problematic aspects of their diseases and illnesses. Overall, it can be said that a lot of research has been conducted and continues to be conducted on music as a form of therapy. Researchers have been able to conclude that both the act of performing music as well as the simple act of listening to music can change the way that we interact with the world around us and this is something that is being used to promote positive and healthy attitudes and actions in people as well.


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