Music therapy, a form of sound therapy, uses the universal appeal of rhythmic sound to communicate, relax, encourage healing, and create a general feeling of well-being. It can take the form of creating music, singing, moving to music, or just listening.
Using music for healing dates back to Aristotle, who touted the power of the flute, and Pythagoras, who taught his students that singing and playing musical instruments could erase negative emotions such as worry, fear, sorrow, and anger. Writings dating from the Renaissance describe the influence of music on breathing, blood pressure, digestion, and muscular activity. In 1896, doctors dis: covered that a young boy’s brain, partially exposed from an accident, responded differently when different types of music were played. Cerebral and peripheral circulation increased in response to some mUsic; mental lucidity increased with other types. In the 1940s, Veterans Administration hospitals incorporated music into rehabilitation programs for disabled soldiers returning from World War II.
Today, music therapy is used to ameliorate physical, psychological, and cognitive problems in patients with illnesses or disabilities. It is offered in various settings’ including general and psychiatric hospitals, rehabilitation facilities, mental health centers, senior centers and nursing homes, hospices, halfway houses, and substance abuse clinics. More than 5,000 registered music therapists practice in the United States today.
Training The National Association for Music Therapy (NAMT) was established in 1950, around the time that degree programs for professional music therapists were developed. The NAMT maintains curricular programs and training internships, a scientific database, standards of practice, and a code of ethics. It offers a board-certification examination for registered music therapists; candidates are required to have a bachelor’s degree in music therapy and to have completed a 6-month internship. The NAMT also sponsors two publications: Journal of Music Therapy and Music Therapy Perspectives.
As a complementary therapy, music therapy benefits patients with developmental disabilities such as mental retardation, and mental health disorders such as anxiety. It’s also effective in reducing chronic pain and as an adjunctive therapy for patients with burns, cancer, cerebral palsy, stroke and other brain injuries, Parkinson’s disease, and substance abuse problems.
Music thanatology, a new branch of sound therapy focused on psychological mechanisms for coping with death and dying, uses music to ease the emotional and physical pain of terminally ill patients. Therapists say music can reduce depression, anxiety, and pain, and improve the overall quality of life for these patients. Music thanatology is used in a wide variety of settings, including homes, hospitals, and hospices.
At the other end of the spectrum, music therapy is used in delivery rooms to enhance the mother’s feeling of comfort and security, to reduce the need for medication, and to promote a feeling of personal control over the situation. Studies have shown that premature infants who hear music in the intensive care unit are discharged earlier than infants who aren’t exposed to music. In addition, relaxing music played to a fetus still in the womb is believed to improve the newborn’s developmental capabilities.
Studies show that music can be an effective complementary therapy for various medical conditions. Music has successfuly reduced anxiety in children undergoing surgery, has decreased pain associated with dental and medical procedures and has improved the rehahilitation of patients experiencing the affects of cerebrovascular accident and those with Parkinson’s desease. patients who listened to classical music before surgery and again in the recovery room reported minimal postoperative disorientation.
Music has also been used successfully to communicate with Alzheimer’s patients, autistic persons, and head trauma victims when other approaches failed. Patients who can’t communicate verbally or initiate purposeful movement need increased sensory and environmental stimillation, especially that which taps into their remote memory. Music provides both psychological comfort and a means of communication for withdrawn or depressed institutionalized patients. A study of Alzheimer’s patients showed that those who listened to big-band music during the day were more alert and happier and had better long-term recollection than the control group. In some cases, music is the only stimulus that elicits a response from these patients.