Music Therapy

4 mins read

Music Therapy – Origin, Benefits, Efficacy, and Methodology
Music is considered to be the art of sound in time that expresses ideas and emotions in significant forms through the elements of melody, harmony and color. The essential elements of music are:

  • The tones or sounds occurring in a single line (melody) or in many lines (harmony)
  • The feeling of movement of sound in time (rhythm)

According to the Oxford Dictionary, music is defined as vocal and/or instrumental sounds that are combined to produce beauty of form, expression of emotion and harmony.

The ancient Greek philosopher, Plato, said that “music gives wings to mind.” He considered that various emotions were aroused when music was played in different modes.1

What Is Music Therapy? Where Did It Originate?
Music therapy is defined as “a systematic process of intervention wherein the therapist helps the client to boost health, using music experiences and the interactions developing through them as dynamic forces of change.”

Here, musical experiences mean musical interaction, either free or improvised. It includes:

  • Active playing of music by patients
  • Active listening to music
  • Both activities

Other modes are – singing, writing songs, playing composed music on instruments.1

According to the World Federation of Music Therapy and the American Music Therapy Association, music therapy is defined as “the clinical and evidence-based use of music and its elements, such as sound, rhythm, tempo, melody, harmony, and dynamic, by a qualified music therapist to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship with one client or a group.”

In this definition, the use of “qualified music therapist” distinguishes the concept of music therapy from the concept of music medicine and music training.

  • In music medicine, music is used as a supplementary therapy by people who are not necessarily specialized in music therapy.
  • In music training, the intervention is given in a non-trial situation by a musician who is not trained in music therapy.1

How Is Music Therapy Beneficial?
Music therapy is beneficial in the following ways:

  • Reduces tension, anxiety, and stress
  • Enables a person to relax
  • Improves the quality of life
  • Increases self-confidence as well as self-esteem
  • Improves concentration and span of attention
  • Improves mood and emotional states
  • Develops decision-making skills

Studies/Research On The Efficacy Of Music Therapy
Music therapy cannot cure, prevent, or treat any diseases. It is meant to be used as a complementary therapy.

How Is Music Therapy Performed?
Patients understand the potential meaning of music experiences by discussing, reflecting, or interpreting themes related to music. The therapist’s job is to help the clients relate this meaning to their daily lives.1

How Can People Get Started With Music Therapy?
There are two types of music therapy:

  • Active form – The patient makes music either alone, or with the therapist, or within a group.
  • Receptive form – The patient is asked to listen to music.

In the United States, the receptive form or the combined form of music therapy is most commonly employed. In Europe, the active form of music therapy is prevalent.

The receptive forms of music therapy are influenced by cognitive-behavioral or humanistic schools. They involve the use of methods such as meditation, relaxation, reminiscing, or meditation.

In the active form, the main focus is music experiences and music interaction. It is psychoanalytically oriented.

Another way to categorize music therapy is:

  • Structured music therapy – More structured forms of music-making are employed. Activities are selected before the sessions.
  • Flexible music therapy – The structure of music-making and the selection of activities is done while the therapist is talking to the patient.

Studies on music therapy use both forms to determine effects.

A third way in which music therapy can be classified is by focus of attention.

  • The focus may lie on the processes taking place within the music itself
  • Or, it may lie on the verbal reflection of the patient’s problems triggered by the musical processes.1

Any Precautions, Contraindications, Or Interactions
Usually, music therapy is safe and has no known side effects. However, listening to loud music or certain types of music can cause irritation or discomfort.

1. Nizamie SH, Tikka SK. Psychiatry and music. Indian J Psychiatry. 2014 Apr;56(2):128-40. doi: 10.4103/0019-5545.130482. Review. PubMed PMID: 24891698; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4040058.

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