Music Therapy

Music Therapy Techniques & Guide

What is Music Therapy
All of us agree to the fact that when one is dull or feeling low one option which is open for us is to listen to music. It does have an effect on us , lifting our spirits up. This aspect of music has been capitalized and developed in the form of music therapy. In simple terms we can say, music is used in the treatment of disease. It is the therapeutic use of music.

What is that in music which brings calming effects? It is the rhythm of the music or the beat that has calming effect on us. This can be happening unconsciously also. The chance is that when we were at the foetal stage in our mother’s womb we could have been influenced by the heart beat of our mother. This safe, relaxing and protective environment in which we were for many months would have prepared us to respond to the comforting music in the same way, in the later stages of life. When we hear music first thing what happens is an increase in the deep breathing leading to relaxation. The body produces more of serotonin in the brain which induces sleep.

The purpose of this therapy is to bring healing in the lives of people who are suffering. There are different levels of the use of music in one’s life. Sometimes music is used to divert one’s attention when one is depressed, mentally disturbed, etc. so that the person is able to experience relaxation, restfulness or even sleep. An example can be playing gentle music for babies to put them to sleep.

Music therapy also involves prescribed use of music in bringing wholeness to the person suffering by restoring, improving and maintaining emotional, physical, physiological and spiritual health and well being.

Thus it is an allied health profession. In music therapy as a profession, music and music related activities and the relationships that develop through shared musical experiences are utilized to bring about desired change in a diseased person.

Music can be used in the development of reasoning ability, reading skills, feeling and response, personal fulfillment, language, the promotion of communication, motor control and physical well being, positive attitudes to school, socializing and pleasurable experiences in a group.

Therapeutic characteristics of music:
1. Music helps in capturing and retaining attention.

2. Music is a good brain stimulator and it involves different parts of the brain.

3. Music helps us know our time frame—when to start a work and when to finish
according to the length of music.

4. Music helps avoid boredom even when work or exercise has to be repeated.

5. Music helps in retaining memory.

6. Music enables one to initiate and continue movements.

7. Music taps into memories and emotions.

8. Music and the pauses within provide non verbal immediate feed back.

9. Music is easily adapted to and can be reflective of a person’s abilities.

10. Music provides a social context.

Lot of research has been undertaken to prove the effect of music on body and mind. Music therapists are using the benefits of music to help cancer patients, children with ADD and other special needs. Even hospitals are employing music and music therapy to help in pain management, to remove depression, to promote movement, to calm patience, to ease muscle tensions etc. Music has a powerful impact on the human body and mind.

Research has proved some of the following effects of music on human physiology.
1. Brain waves: Brain waves respond to different types of music in different ways. Music of louder and stronger beat helps the brain to become more sharp and alert. Slow music can bring the brain to a restful mood. Research has proved music can bring long lasting improvements to the brain even when you have stopped listening to the music.

2. Breathing and heart rate: When changes are brought to the brain, its effects can be noticed in the body also. It brings marked changes in the breathing and heart rate which are controlled by the autonomic nervous system. Music therapy can come of help in chronic stress by calming the mind and relaxation as a result of listening to the low tempo music which slows down breathing and heart rate, resulting in good health.

3. State of mind: Music can help bring change in the state of mind. One can get rid of depression by developing a positive state of mind, thus preventing body from its harmful effects. It can also lead to an increased level of creativity and hopefulness.

4. Other benefits also include reduced blood pressure, boosting immune system, ease muscle tension etc.

Music therapy utilizes music as a therapeutic stimulus to achieve non musical goals.

Some of the long term goals of music therapy are:
1. Physical goals such as improving motor functioning skills like coordination, muscle control, coordination of eye and hand, balance, locomotion, laterality and directionality. Increasing general stamina and endurance, improving functioning of sensory organs, decreased sensitivity of the sense organs, relief in pain by distracting from pain and discomfort, stimulation of natural pain killers, improving autonomic nervous system response, stress reduction, improving identification of body part, improving physical speech skills.

2. Cognitive goals comprise of improved learning abilities such as memory, impulse control, recognize, learning, perception, improved communication, alertness, environmental awareness, integration experiences.

3. Psychological goals includes improved emotional awareness, expressing appropriate behavior, elevated mood, reduction in stress, trauma, fear of illness, enhanced self assessment and environment, improved motivation, increased impulse control, frustration control, improved decision making skills, problem solving skills, supporting a sense of hope, developing personal insight, promoting acceptance, healing and forgiveness, improving self direction and independence, promoting a sense of control over life, sense of accomplishment and promoting spiritual exploration.

4. Social goals fulfill needs such as establishing relationships, increasing social involvement, peer interaction, eye contact, increasing response to verbal and non verbal cues, maintaining and strengthening interpersonal skills and improving group behaviors.

It involves interactions between a music therapist and a client in the context of music. The music therapist helps the client by using music and all its aspects – physical, emotional, mental, social, and aesthetic and spiritual- to improve or maintain his health. The different facets of music which are used by the music therapists are singing, song writing, listening to instrumental and vocal music, discussing music etc.

The need and the physical and mental condition of the client help the music therapist to decide what experience of music has to be used. The music therapy is used along with the normal treatment given to the client by a physician.

Music therapy is of two modes of presentation: One is the passive mode in which listening to music takes place. The other one is the active mode of music therapy in which the client is encouraged to participate. The passive form is helpful in all form of ailments. The active form is helpful in neurological problems like neurological aphasia- to help children reduce speech problems etc.

The result of research on the effect of music therapy
Stroke patients have found to benefit a lot by the use of music therapy. Music has shown to affect portions of brain. After research it has been found that music therapy resulted in improved mood, decrease in depression and reduction in the state of anxiety.

- Studies have documented the effects of music on quality of life, involvement with environment, expression of feelings, awareness and responsiveness, positive associations and socializations.

- Music can increase patient’s motivations and positive emotions.

- When music therapy is used along with traditional therapies success rates are comparatively high.

- One study showed that the incorporation of music with therapeutic upper extremity exercises gave patients more positive emotional effects than exercise alone.

- The patients tend to cooperate and respond positively when music therapy is employed during rehabilitation program.

- The success of music therapy depends on other factors too. Research has found that music therapy can give positive effects when used at a time closer to the injury or when the individual’s social behavior was more impaired at the outset of treatment.

- Music has also been used in recovering of motor skills. Rhythmical auditory stimulation in a musical context in combination with traditional gait therapy improved the ability of stroke patients to walk.

- Research showed the effects of combining music therapy with standard motor rehabilitation methods. Stroke patients were trained to use both fine and gross movements by learning how to use the piano and drum, along with the traditional treatment. They developed better speed, precision and smoothness of movements in comparison to the control group.

- Another study involved a group of stroke patients to understand their pain perception. The group which was doing therapeutic upper extremity exercises along with songs or karaoke accompaniment showed more positive effect and verbal responses.

- Even during the treatment of brain injury patients, the use of music therapy in rehabilitation program showed better social interaction and mood compared to those without music.

- Research has shown that so called meditation and rehabilitation recordings of music sometime produced wrong effects like adverse EEG patterns, just as bad as hard rock and heavy metal. Celtic and Native American and music containing loud drums or flute were found to be extremely soothing.

- Any music performed live and even at moderately loud volumes or being somewhat discordant brought beneficial response.

- Music found to reduce pain during dental procedures.

- The effect of music resulted in reduced heart rate and increased body temperature which is a sign of relaxation.

- Research on heart diseases: Positive results can be anticipated in patients of coronary hear disease. But there was no consistency in the results of the effects of music on heart patients. It did not alleviate patients’ psychological distress.

- Research on Alzheimer’s patients: The study conducted by the University Of Miami School Of Medicine Therapy on the effect of music on Alzheimer’s patients shows increased levels of melatonim, epinephrine and norepinephrine which are chemicals which act on the brain to control mood, depression, aggression and sleep. The benefits stayed longer even when therapy was stopped.

- Research on cancer patients: It was found that music therapy used along with anti-nausea drugs for patients receiving high dose of chemo therapy can help ease nausea and vomiting. Clinical trials have proved that effect of music therapy on reducing short term pain even in cancer.

- Another study showed quality of life improved for cancer patients who received music therapy than those who did not. But it did not prove as a life saving method to any group.

- Research has shown that students who take music lesson have improved IQ levels show improvement in non musical abilities as well.

- Study that allowed patients undergoing surgery to choose their own music showed, improved anxiety levels whereas general music did not.

- Music therapy was found effective in reducing short term pain after surgery.

- In November 2006, Dr Michael J Crawford and his team, found music therapy helped Schizophrenic patients.

- In 2009, he and his team researched on the usefulness of music in helping patients with agitation and dementia.

Music therapy and children
a. Music therapy is greatly useful with autistic children. It helps the child to develop interactions with others. Games played along with the music foster social interaction develop eye contact and social behavior. Music therapy is effective in the development and remediation of speech in autistic children. Great development has been achieved in eliminating their monotonic speech.

b. Children with disabilities
- Music can bring great relaxation in children with disabilities to achieve increased range of motion, flexibility and motor coordination.

- The use of music in therapy provides motivation for physical exercise. Music helps avoid distractions.

- Music therapy helps improve physical abilities resulting in independence, self confidence and self esteem.

- Music therapy can help individuals to develop positive attitudes toward their disabilities and provide opportunities for personal growth.

- Music therapy helps in developing functional speech and communication abilities. The use of vocal exercises used in singing can enhance oral motor skill such as articulation, breath control and vocal intensity.

- Music therapy can provide opportunities to interact with peers through a shared experience. Group music therapy sessions can also provide opportunities to share personal experiences with others and provide an outlet for appropriate self expression.

Approaches to music therapy
- Nordoff- Robbins approach and the Bonny method of Guided Imagery in music are formulated based on the theories of psychology.

- Neurological musical therapy – is a model based on neuroscience. Dr. Thaut says, “The brain that engages in music is changed by engaging in music”.

History of music therapy

Music Therapy as a profession
In 1944, the University of Kansas in the US was the first to offer a degree program in music therapy.

In the US a music therapist is designated by MT-BC (Music Therapist- Board Certificate).A music therapy degree candidate can earn under graduate, masters or doctoral degree in music therapy.

In UK, practitioners are registered with Health Profession Council. From 2007 onwards new registrants must hold a master’s degree in music therapy.
Training of a music therapist involves a full curriculum of music classes along with selected courses in psychology, special education and anatomy, and field experiences in music therapy.

Board Certified Professionals must continue maintaining education credits or retake the exam to remain in practice.
Music therapist work in a variety of settings- in schools, hospitals, rehabilitation, psychiatric care, special education, private practices, etc.

How can we make use of music therapy as a routine?
Every type of music does not help everyone. What is good and helpful for one may not give same effect on the other. So one has to listen to such music what he is comfortable with. In our family one child gets refreshed and renewed by listening to loud and fast music. The other child gets irritated and disturbed by listening to the same. So one important thing that has to be taken care of is that one has to like the music which is used. The right kind of music helps one relax and refresh.

The following are general guidelines to maximize the effectiveness of the music.

Music therapy is a complimentary form of medicine. Sometimes it functions as an alternative medicine also. In the west, it is an accepted form of treatment even within orthodox medical practice.

There is sufficient evidence to prove the worth of Music Therapy. We can not take for granted its contribution to mankind.   

About the Author: Mrs. Thankam Scott is a post graduate in commerce, has done two years diploma in theology. Basically a home maker, she is also an educationist, social activist, and a counselor. Is a volunteer of YWCA. She in interested in reading, writing, creative cooking, gardening, and stitching. Has participated in green food program and is actively practicing it.