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Music Therapy: Healing Minds and Soothing Souls
Posted by Julia Tortorice

In a world where stress, anxiety, and emotional turmoil live in abundance, finding effective methods and ways to promote well-being and healing is essential. Although New York City is known for its fast-paced living, it's also famous for its vibrant, thriving arts scene, where music fills the streets and has a remarkable impact on its community. Amidst the towering skyscrapers and busy streets, the growing field of music therapy has helped enrich the lives of many throughout the city.

With its ability to engage emotions, stimulate cognitive functions, and foster a sense of connection, music therapy has gained recognition for its remarkable therapeutic benefits. In fact, it has been proven to help with various disorders, such as depression, autism, substance abuse, and Alzheimer's disease. And, as a bonus, you don't have to have any background in music to participate and benefit from its therapy. Throughout this blog post, we will explore what music therapy is and delve into its profound effects on individuals' physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Let's start with the basics and learn what the hype is about.

What exactly is music therapy?

Music therapy, according to the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA), is a clinical and evidence-based practice that utilizes music as a therapeutic tool to achieve specific therapeutic goals. It is administered by a trained music therapist who assesses individual needs and designs interventions tailored to address them. Depending on the client's unique circumstances and goals, the therapist may use various techniques, such as listening to music, playing instruments, songwriting, and improvisation.

Although it might seem like you need to know how to carry a tune or follow the beat of the drums, music therapy offers a therapeutic tool to achieve therapeutic goals. For example, you and your therapist will create and compose music, write lyrics, or makeup music together during music therapy. Your music therapist may also encourage you to sing or listen to music, tap your toes to the beat of a song or coordinate a simple dance. During music therapy, you can discuss the lyrics of a song and talk about its meaning or play an instrument, which allows you to dive into your creative outlet and leaves you feeling calmer.

Music therapy might seem like a new, innovative approach to treatment, but its origins have been around for quite some time, according to AMTA. In fact, the organization explains that the first traces of the formal beginnings of music therapy date as far back as 1789. However, the profession emerged in the 20th century after World War I and Worl War II, when musicians attended veterans' hospitals to play for veterans who had suffered trauma.

By harnessing the inherent power of music and employing it in therapeutic interventions, music therapy offers a holistic and personalized healing method. In the following sections, we will delve deeper into the profound benefits of music therapy, highlighting its capacity to enhance emotional well-being, promote cognitive development, foster social connections, and facilitate physical rehabilitation. Through these remarkable outcomes, music therapy has the potential to positively impact the lives of individuals from diverse backgrounds and with varying needs, making it a genuinely transformative modality of care.

What are the benefits?

Music is a beautiful work of art that is so powerful it can help transform positive change. Have you ever listened to a song that has completely changed your mood? Or maybe you hear a tune that reminds you of a significant moment that happened in your past. It's also important to realize that just listening to music can often leave people feeling calmer and happier. It has profound effects on individuals and, therefore, is an effective tool in helping people get better with whatever trauma, pain, or health-related illness they might be dealing with at the time.

Music therapy is administered by trained music therapists and can have the following benefits:

  • Emotional and Mental Well-being: Music can evoke deep emotions and memories. In music therapy, carefully selected songs or melodies can help individuals express and process their feelings effectively. For those struggling with anxiety, depression, or trauma, music therapy provides a safe outlet for emotional release and catharsis. It can also improve self-awareness, boost self-esteem, and enhance overall emotional well-being.
  • Stress Reduction and Relaxation: Stress significantly contributes to physical and mental health issues. Music therapy offers a means of relaxation, reducing stress levels, and promoting a sense of calm. Slow, rhythmic music or guided imagery exercises can slow down heart rate, lower blood pressure, and induce deep relaxation, thus alleviating the effects of chronic stress.
  • Cognitive Development and Rehabilitation: Music therapy has shown remarkable results in aiding cognitive development and rehabilitation. For individuals with neurological conditions such as stroke, traumatic brain injury, or dementia, music therapy can help improve memory, attention, and cognitive skills. Music's rhythmic patterns and melodic structure stimulate neural connections and promote neuroplasticity, aiding in the rewiring and relearning process.
  • Pain Management: Chronic pain can be debilitating, affecting all aspects of life. Music therapy has proven to be an effective complementary intervention for pain management. By diverting attention away from pain, promoting relaxation, and releasing endorphins, music can reduce the perception of pain and provide comfort and distraction during medical procedures.
  • Social Connection and Communication: Music is a universal language that transcends cultural and linguistic barriers, making it an excellent tool for fostering social connection and improving communication skills. In group settings, music therapy promotes interaction, cooperation, and empathy among participants. It can be particularly beneficial for individuals with autism spectrum disorder, developmental delays, or social anxiety, enhancing their ability to connect with others and express themselves.
  • Rehabilitation and Motor Skills: Music therapy can aid physical rehabilitation and improve motor skills. By incorporating rhythmic patterns, instrument playing, and movement, therapists can address coordination, balance, and motor control, which is particularly effective for individuals recovering from physical injuries, strokes, or those with motor impairments, enabling them to regain functional abilities and enhance their overall quality of life.

People from all walks of life can benefit from music therapy, including military service members and veterans, people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), individuals with Alzheimer's disease, people in correctional settings, victims of trauma and crisis, individuals who are physically ill and/or have mental health disorders, people who suffer from chronic pain, and substance abusers. Although the most common places to find music therapy would be a hospital, schools, nursing homes, and outpatient clinics, music therapists can also be found in juvenile detention facilities and other private practices.

Music therapy is a powerful and versatile intervention that harnesses the therapeutic properties of music to promote healing, growth, and well-being. It also offers a holistic approach to healing that transcends traditional boundaries through emotional expression, stress reduction, cognitive development, pain management, social connection, and rehabilitation. So the next time you turn on some music, try to pay attention to how it really makes you feel. It might even be fun to notice that we prefer certain genres of music at different times, which can all lead back to one thing: realizing the power of music.