Wellness

Music therapy: when music fights stress, anxiety, depression and malaise

Music therapy involves using a person’s reactions and connections to music to encourage positive changes in mood and overall well-being. Music therapy can consist of creating music with instruments of all types, singing, moving to the music, or simply listening to it. Music has powerful effects on the mind. Different styles of music can have a significant effect on a person’s mood very quickly. It can help him feel, enter or leave a wide range of emotions: from happiness and excitement, through sadness, calm and reflection. Making music is as beneficial as listening to it. Music therapy encourages people to actively create music that they enjoy and find useful.

What is Music Therapy?

Music therapy uses the powerful abilities of music to improve a person’s well-being. It is an alternative to other types of therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). It can help improve self-confidence, communication skills, independence, awareness of self and others, and ability to focus and pay attention.

The live musical interaction between a person and their therapist is important during music therapy. Improvisation can also be a key part of music therapy. It involves creating music on the spot in response to a mood or theme, such as making the sound of a thunderstorm using drums and a rain stick.

How does music therapy work?

The way music affects the brain is very complex. All aspects of music, including pitch, tempo, and melody, are processed by different areas of the brain.
For example, the cerebellum processes rhythm, the frontal lobes decode the emotional cues created by music, and a small portion of the right temporal lobe helps understand the pitch of sounds. The brain’s reward center, called the nucleus accumbens, can even produce physical signs of intense pleasure, like goosebumps, when it hears loud music. Music therapy can use these deep physical reactions of the body to music to help people with mental health issues.

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History and origins of music therapy

Music has been part of human life for thousands of years. Specifically, experts have found instruments dating back over 40,000 years. This suggests that the desire of humans to express themselves or communicate through music is deeply rooted. The use of music for therapeutic and healing purposes dates back to ancient Greece. But its current therapeutic use began in the 20th century, after the end of World War II. The earliest reference to music therapy comes from a 1789 article titled “Music Considered Physically.”

In the 1800s, medical research into the therapeutic nature of music grew. Later, in the 1940s, universities offered music therapy programs. E. Thayer Gaston, one of the three men who first used music as a therapeutic tool, organized and promoted this practice to become an accepted type of therapy. Today, there are many music therapy associations around the world. Music therapists work in the private sector, education and social assistance.

Music therapy versus other forms of therapy

Music therapy does not rely on verbal communication. It may therefore be better for people who have difficulty communicating verbally. This may be due to a disability, a neurodegenerative condition such as dementia, an acquired brain injury, or a mental health issue. As CBT and coaching are both talking therapies, they may not be suitable for people who have difficulty communicating verbally. This is where, among other things, music therapy can be beneficial.

Also, mental health professionals can bring music therapy directly to a person. For example if she can’t get out of bed or if she is unable to get to a therapist’s office. Home music therapy can also be beneficial for children who want to be in familiar surroundings during their sessions.

The skills learned in music therapy can also be useful in everyday life. One can consider learning an instrument as a new hobby, or use it as a tool to improve one’s mental health and cope with difficult situations throughout one’s life.

Benefits of music therapy on a daily basis: well-being, well-being, being yourself

There are additional benefits of listening to or creating music that talking therapies cannot provide. For example, learning and practicing a piece of music can improve memory, coordination, reading, comprehension, and math skills. It can also teach lessons in responsibility and perseverance.
Creating a piece of music can also give people a great sense of accomplishment. Which can help them improve their mood and self-esteem.

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Music therapy can also introduce many different cultures. It is indeed quite possible to explore any type and genre of music during therapy. Understanding the story behind a piece of music can help people connect with the music they listen to or play. Music therapy allows people to express themselves creatively, which can be a more enjoyable way to explore difficult emotions.

Lyric analysis is another accessible way for people to explore and process difficult emotions, experiences, or memories through music.
For example, a person can find themes and meanings in lyrics and come up with alternative lyrics that apply to their life and experiences. Which can help her find the words that represent what she feels if she has trouble expressing it herself.

Some of the documented benefits of music therapy include:

improvement of self-esteem
decreased anxiety
increased motivation
successful and safe emotional release
increased verbalization
stronger bonds with other people

How Music Therapy Helps Fight Anxiety

Many studies suggest that music therapy can reduce feelings of anxiety. Especially in people with cancer, those undergoing surgery and those going to intensive care units. Some studies also suggest that music can reduce blood pressure and heartbeat. This can have a direct impact on a person’s level of stress.

There is also evidence that people who undergo music therapy see their anxiety decrease immediately after the session. Which indicates that music therapy could be a practical way to quickly reduce symptoms. Music affects the amount of stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol, that the body releases. Reducing these hormones can help relieve symptoms of anxiety.

How music therapy helps with depression

Studies suggest that music therapy can improve symptoms of depression. People who received music therapy along with standard treatments for depression, such as talk therapy, improved more than people who received only standard therapy.

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Listening to music can also release dopamine. A hormone that makes people feel good, and endorphins, hormones that can induce a happy mood and relieve pain.

Although music therapy is not a cure for depression, it may provide short-term benefits by improving mood and encouraging connection and self-expression.

music in children

Here are some of the benefits of music therapy for children:

provide fun ways to express thoughts and feelings
practicing social interaction and communication skills
encourage creative play
improve concentration and coordination
increase self-awareness
awareness of others, especially during group music sessions
build self-esteem and resilience
strengthening language and listening skills
strengthening family relationships

Scientific sources

Aalbers, S., et al. (2017). Music therapy for depression.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6486188/

Erkkila, J., et al. (2011). Individual music therapy for depression: randomized control trial [Abstract].
https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/the-british-journal-of-psychiatry/article/individual-music-therapy-for-depression-randomized-controlled-trial/A1CD72904929CECCB956F4F3B09605AF

Higham, T., et al. (2012). Τesting models for the beginnings of the Aurignacian and the advent of figurative art and music: The radiocarbon chronology of Geißenklösterle [Abstract].
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0047248412000425

Jasemi, M., et al. (2016). The effects of music therapy on anxiety and depression of cancer patients.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5072238/

Meymandi, A. (2009). Music, medicine, healing, and the Genome Project.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2766288/

Montgomery, E. (2016). 10 benefits of children learning a musical instrument.
https://petersonfamilyfoundation.org/music-therapy/10-benefits-children-learning-musical-instrument/

Music and health. (2011).
https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/music-and-health

Music physically considered. (nd).
https://mountainscholar.org/handle/10217/184634

Music therapy and mental health. (nd).
https://www.musictherapy.org/assets/1/7/MT_Mental_Health_2006.pdf

Warren, M. (2016). The impact of music therapy on mental health.
https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/December-2016/The-Impact-of-Music-Therapy-on-Mental-Health

What is music therapy? (nd).
https://www.bamt.org/music-therapy/what-is-music-therapy.html

Working with children, young people and their families. (nd).
https://www.bamt.org/music-therapy/what-is-music-therapy/children-and-young-people.html

Wu, SM (2002). Effect of music therapy on anxiety, depression, and self-esteem of undergraduates [Abstract].
https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/psysoc/45/2/45_2_104/_article/-char/ja/

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