What are the benefits of music therapy?


Have you ever played a song and immediately started feeling better? Well, there is power in music and chances are it will affect you more than you think. In a previous interview, the neuroscientist Yewande Pearse, PhD, told POPSUGAR that music stimulates almost every brain structure. You can see music only as a motivational tool (think: running on the treadmill). But it can also calm us down by interfering with our fight or flight response, impacting the parasympathetic nervous system, autonomic nervous systemand endocrine system, says Dr. Pearse. Music can even help us change our way of thinking in an anxiety-provoking situation, she notes. This is why the practice of music therapy exists.

We already use music to reflect on life experiences and make sense of how we feel, says associate professor of music therapy at Shenandoah University Hakeem Leonard, PhD, MT-BC. In music therapy, skilled professionals like Dr. Leonard use evidence-based clinical processes to develop this and offer support to clients dealing with a range of mental and physical health issues – from depression to post-surgery rehabilitation. . If you’ve ever considered trying music therapy, here’s a list of everything you need to know.

What is Music Therapy?

the American Association for Music Therapy defines music therapy as “the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to achieve individualized goals within the context of a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program”. Board-certified music therapists have degrees in music therapy and a national MT-BC credential. They should not be confused with art therapists, volunteer musicians or therapists who use music in their sessions, says Cait CarterMT-BC, who works at a public adult psychiatric hospital.

Gabby Salzarulo completes 1,200 hours of clinical training this month before taking her exam to receive her broad certification in music therapy. She tells POPSUGAR that she likes to define music therapy as “the use of music to achieve non-musical goals.” What you do in specific sessions varies from person to person since everyone’s needs are unique, she notes. Here is a list of activities you can expect to see in music therapy:

  • Songwriting (may also include editing lyrics in a pre-composed song)
  • Lyrical analysis
  • Listening to music
  • Draw to music
  • Guided meditation accompanied by music
  • Making music (may include improvisation and may involve the use of drums or bells)

Carter notes that she uses music therapy to achieve much of what you would work on in talk therapy. For example, she might use instruments in a group therapy session as a form of communication to work on interpersonal skills. Using instruments to have conversations, she says, tends to be less intimidating than talking. Meanwhile, writing songs and playing music promotes mindfulness. This encourages you to focus on how the instrument and the vibrations feel in your hands, as well as how you feel the sound. An important part of Carter’s job is also to assess people to identify their interests, the type of music they listen to, whether they play an instrument, and whether they enjoy dancing or writing music. “Favorite music has proven to be most effective in music therapy. So if I decide to use Mozart with someone who is a metal fanatic, it won’t be effective,” she explains.

What are the benefits of music therapy?

Carter focuses on the mental health benefits for her patients. For example, having something real to focus on, such as music, helps patients with psychosis organize their thoughts, she says. “Often people who have been victims of PTSD or another type of traumathey sometimes feel powerless, and creating music, taking on that, can give them a sense of power,” she says. Carter has also observed how music helps people process the shame and guilt associated with trauma. She even showed positive changes in people with depression.

There are also specific clinicians who practice neurological music therapy, usually given to stroke patients and those with traumatic brain injury. In this setting, says Carter, clinicians use melodic intonation therapy, for example, to help people regain their speech. And Salzarulo notes how effective music therapy is for people with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia – it’s been proven help their cognitive function and quality of life. Salzarulo, who is completing his final pre-certification internship at a South Florida hospice company, usually plays his patients’ favorite music. But if people aren’t responding, the best music to use is early 20s music, she says. It resonates the most and has the most Memory attached to it.

Music therapy can help pain management, too. When Dr. Leonard worked in an inpatient rehabilitation facility, he used music to help patients with physical pain after knee replacement surgery. He played their favorite music at a tempo that matched the speed at which they were trying to pedal a bicycle and found that they reported less pain while trying to increase their range of motion.

Other areas of research include the benefits of music therapy for autistic childrenand Carter says she personally aims to conduct research into the most effective music therapy interventions to treat people who have suicidal thoughts Where personality disorders.

How to find a good music therapist

Dr. Leonard, Carter, and Salzarulo all agree that you don’t have to be musically talented to benefit from or participate in music therapy. Ready to try? Dr. Leonard suggests following the steps below:

  1. Use a search engine like Google to find music therapists near you.
  2. Make sure they have those MT-BC credentials.
  3. If you still need help finding a music therapist, contact universities in your area that offer music therapy programs. These programs will have links with all kinds of music therapists in the local and regional area.
  4. You can also contact the American Music Therapy Association for recommendations.

Carter notes that music therapists are licensed to practice across state lines since the MT-BC credential is a national certification. However, if a client lives in a state where a music therapy license is required, the music therapist also needs a license in this state. At the very least, Dr. Leonard reiterates how important it is to find someone who is trained in music therapy and has an MT-BC. They will know how to best navigate the intricacies of music therapy, including the triggers certain music can have on a person, as well as how to implement clinical practices in a way that is culturally sensitive. When in doubt, always look for this certification.


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