The Power of Music Therapy: How It Can Help You Heal
Music therapy is a way to help people deal with different types of problems. It is used in many different settings, and it is successful. There are around 1,000 music therapists in the UK registered with HCPC. This number has been growing over the past decade. Music therapy can help a lot of different people for different reasons.
What is Music Therapy?
There are three types of ‘art therapy’: music therapy, art therapy, and drama therapy. Music therapists use the power of music to help clients communicate and open up. Drama therapists use role play and storytelling to help clients explore their problems. Art therapists use artistic media as their primary mode of expression.
A person who receives music therapy is called a client, just like people who receive other types of treatment. Music therapy helps people progress towards their unique goals with the help of a therapist who provides tailored activities.
Making music together can help people express themselves and communicate better. Music therapy can help people with many different needs, like psychological, emotional, cognitive, physical, communicative, or social needs.
Music is a powerful tool you can use in therapy because you can link it to emotional responses. It is universal to human nature. Studies have shown that babies are born with an innate sense of rhythm and that they respond to music even before they can communicate verbally.
This response goes full circle towards the end of life, when verbal abilities may again be lost. Music helps us form connections, and crucially, this connection between the therapist and the client enables the client to explore and develop their feelings without needing words.
Musicusic therapists must be registered with the Health and Care Professions Cou when working with the UK. This council sets standards of conduct and requirements for professional development. Music therapists will work as part of a team with other health professionals, contributing to care plans and assessing clients’ progress towards their individualized goals.
Who Benefits from Music Therapy?
People of all ages can use music therapy. You don’t have to know how to play an instrument or sing. Music therapy is a great way to communicate with people who might have trouble talking, especially when helping children with special needs or adults in health and social care.
There are many therapeutic benefits, including helping people with emotional problems and giving them a safe place to express their feelings. Research shows that therapy can also help people with various other issues, such as addiction and relationship problems.
Below are some more examples of people who can be helped by music therapy:
- It is a condition that affects those who have recovered from brain damage, strokes, or other life-threatening ailments.
- People who are experiencing emotional or mental problems, such as anxiety and depression.
- Children who have suffered abuse.
- Adults and children with learning or physical disabilities.
- Children with developmental disorders.
- People with neurological conditions.
- People with chronic conditions such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease.
- Children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).
- Adults with other health and social needs.
- People with autism.
- People have dementia.
There are many places where music therapy can take place. These include care homes, children’s centers, hospices, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and some schools and nurseries. Music therapists can also visit clients in their home environment if needed. Music therapy sessions are not like music lessons; people may learn new skills, but that is not their primary goal.
Music therapy may help families together. You can refer a music therapist to the family if their child has social needs such as post-natal depression, substance misuse, or attachment issues. These are some of the things that music therapy sessions can help with.
Music Therapy and Autism
Music therapy can help autistic children to communicate better and interact with others. Research has shown that music therapy can improve:
- Verbal communication skills.
- Social interactions.
- Initiation behaviors (starting interactions with others or the environment).
- Interactions of communication may be encouraged by activities such as ‘call and response’ musical exchanges, linking to taking turns in conversation).
- Non-verbal communication.
- Control of vocalizations or repetitive behaviors.
It is important to note that the benefits of music therapy may not be the same for everyone. Sometimes it can take a while for someone to get help from the treatment since they need to trust the therapist and develop a relationship. However, suppose goals in the areas listed above are achieved. In that case, it can lead to overall improvements in life, such as better family relationships and social adaptation.
Music Therapy and Dementia
There is a lot of interest in using music therapy to improve the quality of life for people with dementia. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) updated its Quality Standard for Dementia in 2019. To include the recommendation that people with dementia should have access to a range of individualized activities, including the option of music therapy interventions.
For people with dementia, listening to music can sometimes make them remember things from their past. It can help them connect with their history and have conversations. For example, if you play songs from weddings, the person might talk about their wedding.
Music can encourage people to increase their physical activity through movement to the music or even dancing. Music therapy can help people with dementia to express themselves by stimulating different parts of the brain and allowing non-verbal communication. Group sessions with other people living with dementia can also help people come to terms with their symptoms and feel that they are not alone.
Types of Music Therapy and Techniques
There is a lot of variety in the content of music therapy sessions. Every person is different, and each person has different needs and goals. Music therapists work with each individual to determine what will work best for them. Sessions can be active, with people making music, and passive, such as listening to specific pieces of music to relax or relieve anxiety.
In a music therapy session, the therapist and patient work together to make music. The therapist often uses an instrument like a piano or guitar to play with the sounds and tones that the patient produces.
The participants are encouraged to explore sound and create their musical language. They can do this by using their voice or any accessible instruments. Accessible instruments include drums, xylophones, glockenspiels, and tambourines. These instruments have a variety of sounds and use different motor skills.
You can use specific activities to help encourage the development of a particular issue. For example:
- The therapist will play or tap out question phrases in this therapy session. The client will copy or respond spontaneously.
- Clapping and moving your body to the music can help improve your coordination and motor skills.
- People of all ages can write their songs in sessions to express their feelings. It can help provide an outlet for these feelings, build confidence, and give a great sense of achievement.
You can do music therapy in groups. Group sessions have their benefits. People can develop empathy, find comfort in shared problems with others, encourage communication and teamwork and increase self-confidence.
You can use some of the musical activities above in your setting. While not a substitute for formal therapy sessions, it can be a good starting point for therapeutically exploring music. It can also be great fun!
How Do I Get Involved?
There are many ways to be referred to music therapy. It could be directed by a pediatrician, doctor, psychologist, occupational therapist, or physiotherapist. Some music therapists also work with private clients. Use the “Find a Music Therapist” function on the British Association for Music Therapy website to find a music therapist.
Informal group choirs for people with dementia have led to many positive outcomes for their participants. One example is the “Singing for the Brain” program, which operates in locations across the country. This program continues to function during the pandemic by holding virtual or phone-in sessions.
There are free online video resources from the music therapy charity Nordoff Robbins. These videos can give you a taste of what might happen in a therapy session. They are a great way to initiate a shared musical experience with someone without needing any specialist equipment.
Learn more: Music Therapy Offers an End-of-Life Grace Note