What is Music Therapy?

The field of healthcare known as music therapy has been rapidly growing due to the demand for utilizing holistic forms of treatment for mental and behavioral disorders. This type of holistic or expressive arts therapy has shown to drastically improve a variety of mental conditions. It can also improve the overall quality of life.

While anxiety disorders such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are the most common type of mental conditions in the United States, affecting 40 million adults, depression is very close behind. Professional treatment at a mental health facility with unconventional therapeutic methods such as this, in conjunction with a continuum of care, has proven to be the best solution for safely and effectively managing diagnoses of this caliber. 

At Renewal Behavioral Health, our team of mental health professionals specializes in providing a variety of mental health resources and treatment services. This includes music therapy. The goal is to help people suffering be able to better cope and manage their mental health conditions to achieve healthier and more productive lifestyles.

History of Music Therapy

According to the largest existing music therapy organization in the world, the American Music Therapy Association, music therapy first became known when mentioned in a Columbian paper called “Musically Physically Considered.” 

Long before that, however, Greek philosopher and mathematician Pythagoras in 570-495 BC, created a variety of music scales and modes to cure various physical and psychological conditions. 

Although, the earliest mention was in chapter 16 of the Jewish Bible in Prophets. In one of the stories, David who was a skilled musician had the power to heal King Saul’s depression through music. Whether historically accurate or not, music was always mentioned as a therapeutic modality. 

The profession of what is known as modern music therapy, emerged after World War I and II in the 20th century. Both beginner and professional musicians visited hospitals and played for veterans who were commonly suffering from conditions such as PTSD. 

The impact and improvement that the music seemed to have on the patient’s physical and emotional states left doctors requesting that these musicians keep coming back and be trained to help. This was the beginning of music therapy education.

Relationship Between Music Therapy and Mental Illness

The process of music therapy is very multifaceted. As mentioned above, it has come extremely far in the world of healthcare, as it’s now more widely accepted as a form of therapy for people suffering from mental health issues. 

Certified music therapists aid individuals in their recovery process. This is done using a variety of treatment methods, resources, and education for children, adolescents, and adults (men and women) with mental illness. Comprehensive plans are tailored to target an individual’s specific needs and goals, finding what therapy program exactly works for them. 

Common mental conditions such as bipolar disorder, depression, and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), are common problems that change a person’s mood and behavior. Music therapy sessions conducted by a licensed music therapist uses the intervention of music and sound to help people with these illnesses improve their physical wellbeing, the way they communicate, and express emotions. As a result, music therapy has a positively altered mood, thinking patterns, and unhealthy addictive behaviors.  

In other words, music therapy does not only help improve the intensity of symptoms associated with mental disorders such as depression and anxiety but it also improves overall health and quality of life, making it easier for someone to manage their condition. 

Everyone’s situations are unique and require different levels of care. Therefore, it is important to remember that the treatment services used and whether the outcome is successful vary from person to person to determine the right therapy program. What is known, is that those who practice music therapy have benefited greatly.

How Music Therapy Works

Today, music therapy continues to be practiced in mental health and substance abuse treatment facilities. At Renewal BH, we have seen firsthand the effects that music therapy has had on patients suffering from mental and behavioral disorders. 

Music is processed and produced through a variety of components that differs from verbal speech. The following five factors mentioned below, contribute to how music therapy works have helped our patients reduce stress and anxiety, cope with emotional trauma, physical pain, and feel more connected with others, and improve their self-esteem. 

1. Modulation of Attention

The first aspect of music therapy is the modulation of attention which means that when music plays it grabs our attention and distracts us from other outside stimuli that may lead to negative experiences such as worry, pain, anxiety, etc. 

2. Modulation of Emotion

The second-way music therapy world is through changing one’s emotions. Multiple studies have shown, that music regulates the regions of the brain that is responsible for our emotions known as the limbic system (the amygdala, the hypothalamus, and the hippocampus). 

3. Modulation of Cognition

Music helps to modulate cognition known as our thought patterns. Hearing songs, melodies, sounds, etc., is related to the way we process information and memories (encoding, storage, and decoding) information related to music or experiences. This also includes the structure of music and its meaning. 

4. Modulation of Behavior

One of the most important aspects of music therapy is that helps to change bad habits and behaviors, especially addictive or harmful ones. Music conditions people to improve how they act based on how they move and speak, etc. 

5. Modulation of Communication

Communication is extremely important in life, especially in regards to relationships. As music is the universal language and a means of communication itself, during music therapy, it can play a significant role in helping people open up more, know how to express their emotions better, and improve communication and relationships overall. 

The Power and Benefits Of Music Therapy

Music therapy in addition to psychological therapeutic methods such as individualized psychotherapy, group therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) has been just as effective in improving symptoms, daily functioning, and relationships. 

In The Power of Music: Pioneering Discoveries In The New Science Of Song, author Elena Mannes demonstrated how a person’s relationship with music is a powerful one. A combination of melodies, harmonies, lyrics, sounds, etc., affect different types of people in unique ways, especially regarding one’s health, mentally and physically. 

Mannes, most importantly, places emphasis on research conducted by scientists, which further proves that music and its powerful properties, can stimulate the brain and change the way it works, more than any other human function. 

There are a variety of music therapy types, which harness many healing powers when it comes to the treatment of mental illness. These include the following: 

  • Helps improve symptoms of many mental conditions and health problems over time
  • Helps people be in a more relaxed and meditative state quicker 
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Reduce the risk of stroke
  • Boosts immune system
  • Boosts mood due to the release of endorphins 
  • Reduces stress and anxiety 
  • Helps improve sleep problems such as insomnia
  • Helps ease pain and tension especially in the muscles due to the release of endorphins
  • Strengthens coping skills 
  • Encourages communication and emotional expression

How Music Affects The Mind and Body

Truth is, many people, especially musicians have an instinctual understanding of how sound interacts and affects our mental and physical health more than any other art form. This is what psychologists call the mind/body connection, a complex relationship between how our mind and body interact with one another. 

There is much more to music than just boosting your physical health and psyche. It 

Dr. James Gordo, the founder of the Center for Mind-Body Medicine, said it best, each organ in the body is interconnected to each emotional response that a person experiences, which all share a common chemical language that can positively or negatively impact one’s mental state. 

Music is good for our mind, body, and spirit. Research shows that music depending on the tempo and volume, causes heart rate and blood pressure to change accordingly. There is a scientific explanation, which is why calm music helps people feel calm. 

The activity of our brain waves fluctuates while listening to songs or melodies, allowing the brain to calm itself down faster, bringing beneficial long-term effects to a person’s mental state as well as physical. This is why holistic methods of therapy are extremely successful as changing the way people think and behave. 

What to Expect During Music Therapy

Music therapy sessions are designed in mind due to a number of factors. These include physical health, communication, cognitive skills, emotional and mental wellbeing, interests, and hobbies. All these factors along with their needs are considered when forming a treatment plan.

At Renewal BH, our comprehensive mental health program creates tailored treatment plans including music therapy, either called creative or receptive sessions.

Creative and Receptive Music Therapy

During the creative process, the music therapist works with patients to create or produce music. This may include composing a song, improvising, or playing an instrument such as the drums. On the other hand, during the receptive process, music therapists will have patients listen to music and then discuss what they feel, think, or believe about it. 

It is important to note, that those who do music therapy do not have to be extremely musically inclined to benefit from it. Our music therapist will ensure that the activities, such as listening to certain types of music, music exercises, or playing instruments will always benefit and address the abilities, needs, and goals of each patient.

Who Is A Good Candidate For Music Therapy

Music therapy is used to treat adults and children with a variety of mental health conditions to help identify the main source of their issues and treat them accordingly. Those with ADHD, depression, or anxiety, for example, can benefit greatly from music therapy techniques to improve how they communicate in different settings and relationships. 

This type of art therapy is also very powerful for candidates with Alzheimer’s Disease and forms of Dementia. Having musical experiences can open expression and emotional awareness, allowing people to heal.

Renewal Behavioral Health Can Help

If you or a loved one is suffering from a mental and/or behavioral disorder, Renewal Behavioral Health’s music therapy program can help. We will aim to improve overall physical and mental health, and most importantly, teach the tools and resources needed to help you cope and manage your condition effectively. 

To learn more about music therapy and if you may be a good candidate, contact us today!

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