The power of music is a universally accepted truth. But it’s a power we might overlook when considering music’s ability to heal. Sure, our society puts a premium on music for entertainment value, and it is certainly a constant, and ever-evolving, cultural influencer, but rarely is it acknowledged as the effective form of therapy it truly is — outside of integrative medical practices, of course.
The field of music therapy gained formal recognition following its use in Veteran’s Affairs hospitals after World War II, to aid in the healing process. Since then the medical community has expanded the intervention for patients struggling with emotional and mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, and a host of mood disorders.
What is Music Therapy?
The therapeutic intervention is tailored to the individual’s needs and is constructed to help a patient achieve their therapeutic goals. The musical intervention may involve: music coming from the therapist or the patient playing a musical instrument and/or singing, the patient composing music, the patient listening to or dancing/moving to a piece of music.
Regardless of the specific “delivery system,” brain scans reveal that music is one of only two activities (the other being exercise) in which the entire brain is stimulated. These interventions allow the patient to then express feelings or thoughts in a more complex and multidimensional manner than with words only and can help the patient address traumatic or uncomfortable situations non-verbally in service to their mental and emotional well-being.
Is There Evidence of Music Therapy’s Effectiveness?
As integrative practices and alternative medicine have become more common, further studies have been conducted identifying the benefits of music therapy on mental and emotional conditions.
- Cancer patients who participated in music therapy were better able to manage their symptoms, expressed more hope about their ability to survive cancer and were better able to access and discuss traumatic memories associated with their diagnosis. Music therapy has also been shown to decrease anxiety and depression in cancer patients.
- A recent meta-analysis, published in the Cochrane Database of systematic reviews, found that music therapy in conjunction with conventional treatments improved depression symptoms and is more effective than only using conventional treatments alone.
- A systematic review and meta‐analysis of randomized, controlled trials looking at the impact of music therapy on elderly patients found that music therapy improved elderly patients’ depression symptoms.
If you are considering music therapy for mental health purposes or any other health condition or symptom, check out the American Music Therapy Association or The Certification Board for Music Therapists to find a therapist. The use of music therapy is widely considered a safe way of addressing mental, and even physical, conditions when delivered by a well-trained certified music therapist, and could be very effective for you and your mental health.
Your Health Into Your Own Hands
Drawing on 40 years of research and patient care, Dr. Wayne Jonas explains how 80 percent of healing occurs organically and how to activate the healing process.