Therapy Through Song: How Music Therapy Helps us Heal
Music has a way of speaking to us and getting us in touch with our inner emotions. Religious music is meant to inspire us, while the music in horror films is meant to keep us on edge. Hollywood does an excellent job of helping us follow the emotions involved in a storyline with the musical score. There are plenty of scenarios in which we can determine that music helps us to feel one way or another about events or situations.
We have learned through many years of research across many cultures that we can help patients with serious illnesses or behavioral conditions to heal faster and diminish stress by introducing music therapy to their existing forms of treatment. Patients who have undergone bone marrow transplants in a University of Minnesota study had a decrease in fatigue when patients were concurrently treated with music therapy. Young toddlers with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) in a University of Kansas study were more likely to interact with one another in a classroom setting when musical instruments, songs, and musical games were introduced. The abstracts for the aforementioned studies can be found here.
In fact, the American Cancer Society has been conducting research on the use of music therapy during chemotherapy treatments. Music therapy is much more than listening to music; patients undergoing this therapy can compose music, discuss lyrics, or even write lyrics of their own. This process can reduce stress, anxiety and depression, and has even shown results in children as well as adults. The patients who can benefit from music therapy, as a result, can further benefit from an improved quality of life. The ACS reports that:
"Other clinical trials have revealed a reduction in heart rate, blood pressure, breathing rate, insomnia, depression, and anxiety with music therapy. No one knows all the ways music can benefit the body, but studies have shown that music can affect brain waves, brain circulation, and stress hormones. These effects are usually seen during and shortly after the music therapy."
NPR has numerous radio shows on the subject of music therapy.
Here are a few very interesting podcasts:
Talk of the Nation- Music Therapy
All Things Considered- Harp Therapy: Music as Medication
To learn more about this alternative treatment approach, you can visit the American Music Therapy Association's website.