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  • Writer's pictureLarissa Velasco

Notes of Hope: An Introduction to Music Therapy

Music has been found to have a profound therapeutic effect on individuals, making it an ideal tool for a therapeutic approach to mental health. This is where Music Therapy comes into the picture, which is the clinical use of music to address and improve mental, physical, emotional, and cognitive functioning. It can promote relaxation, reduce anxiety, improve communication, enhance mood, and relieve pain.


The use of music as a healing medium can be traced back to ancient civilizations, where it was used to treat illness and restore mental balance. Music therapy as a profession emerged in the early 20th century, and it has since then grown in scope and recognition as an effective way of improving mental health. According to the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA), music therapy is provided by a board-certified music therapist who assesses the client's needs and designs a personalized therapeutic plan that incorporates music-based interventions such as listening, playing, singing, and moving to music.

 

Music therapy can be applied in both group and individual settings, each with its unique benefits. Group music therapy promotes social interaction, cooperation, and a sense of belonging, enhancing collective well-being. In contrast, individual therapy provides a safe space for self-expression and introspection, fostering personal growth and self-discovery.


Learning to play an instrument is another facet of music therapy that proves therapeutic since it requires focus, discipline, and coordination, helping to improve cognitive functioning. Moreover, the sense of accomplishment in mastering an instrument can boost self-esteem and emotional well-being.




Music therapy interventions can be adapted to suit various populations, including children, adolescents, adults, and seniors, as well as those living with disabilities, chronic conditions, brain injuries, and mental health issues. For example, music therapy has been found useful for children with developmental delays, where it promotes social and emotional growth, improves communication and self-expression, and enhances cognitive functioning. Music therapy has also been integrated into cancer treatment to help manage pain, reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, and enhance quality of life.


Music therapy has also been found to be beneficial in treating individuals struggling with mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. The rhythmic structure of music can help create a predictable and safe space for individuals to explore their emotions. Using music to evoke emotions can provide insight into one's inner self and create a therapeutic connection between the therapist and the client.

 

Moreover, music has been found useful in treating dementia and Alzheimer's disease. Music therapy can enhance cognitive abilities such as memory and concentration, provide a sense of familiarity, and improve mood and communication skills. It has been found that listening to personally meaningful music from one's past can help evoke memories and emotions, promoting social interaction and emotional expression.


Experiencing music


Music's impact on our emotions is profound, often evoking strong emotional responses that can resonate with our current state of mind or even alter it entirely. The distinction between hearing and listening plays a significant role in this regard; hearing is a purely physiological process of recognizing sounds, while listening is an active, conscious focus on what we perceive with our senses and interpret the message within.


In music therapy, the act of listening moves beyond simple auditory recognition to a deeper, emotional engagement with the music. This is where our emotional state comes into play. When we are in a receptive, open state of mind, we are more likely to be touched by the music we listen to. This can be achieved through various means, such as creating a calm and peaceful environment, focusing on the lyrics or the melody, or consciously attempting to connect with the emotions conveyed through the composition.


The beauty of music is its ability to communicate and evoke emotions that words often fail to express. This can lead to catharsis or even a transformative emotional experience. This is the essence of music therapy's efficacy – the ability to create a supportive environment where individuals can explore and express their emotions through the universal language of music.

 

For those seeking a deeper understanding of music therapy and its impact on cognitive functions, a wealth of information can be found on the American Music Therapy Association's website. Their research factsheet page (https://www.musictherapy.org/research/factsheets/) offers a comprehensive overview of the latest studies and findings in the field. The page covers a wide range of topics, from the benefits of music therapy for specific conditions such as autism and Alzheimer's disease to its effects on general health and well-being.



Movie Recommendation: The music never stopped



Based on a true story derived from an essay by Oliver Sacks, the renowned neurologist, this film delves into the extraordinary events that unfold when the power of music becomes a bridge between a father and his estranged son.


The movie, at its core, delves into the heartwarming story of a father, brilliantly portrayed by J. K. Simmons, as he navigates the challenges of forming a bond with his son, Gabriel (Lou Taylor Pucci), who is diagnosed with a brain tumour, disrupting his ability to form new memories. 


If you're looking for a movie that pulls at your heartstrings, delves into the complexities of the mind, and celebrates those timeless melodies that shape our lives, then "The

Music Never Stopped" is a total must-watch! It's available on Amazon Prime Video.


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