Can Music Be Used As Therapy?

Music is often used as a tool to relieve our stress and put us in a good mood but did you know that research suggests it can also be used as a type of therapy for mental illnesses?

Alternative modes of therapy are now being developed to complement the conventional treatment style. In both acute and chronic inpatient care settings, most psychiatric patients undergo a range of treatments, including music therapy. Music therapy is intended to be a supplement to, not a replacement for, the original modalities of treatment.

Over the last two decades, neuroscientific and clinical studies of music have significantly expanded our understanding of its function as a therapeutic tool. Music therapy is the clinical application of music to achieve customized goals such as stress reduction, improved mood, and self-expression. Clinical research shows that music therapy can be used as an alternative therapy to treat depression, autism, schizophrenia, and dementia, as well as agitation, anxiety, insomnia, and substance abuse, though whether it can truly replace other forms of treatment is yet unknown.

Music therapy helps through changes in reward, motivation, pleasure, stress, and arousal. It is effective in suppressing and combating symptoms and when in addition to standard care, can improve mental state, and social functioning. However, in order for music therapy to be effective, sufficient sessions must be provided by a qualified music therapy professional. The therapy will only work when the therapist is aware of the variables that can affect the therapeutic quality of the music.Β  Music therapy also requires effort from the patient as well. Attendance is one of the key aspects when it comes to determining the effectiveness of music therapy. Verbal participation is also crucial, as research has shown that patients who participate are more effective than those who do not. A music therapist should never compel a client to engage because this will only stifle the therapeutic alliance's development.

Hospitals, schools, nursing homes, outpatient clinics, mental health centers, and houses for people with developmental disabilities are the most typical locations. Music therapists visit juvenile correctional centers, schools, and private offices, among other places. Music therapists are trained and certified to serve in a number of healthcare and educational settings. It is mostly done in group-based settings, which allows a greater number of patients access to music therapy treatment and is also more cost-effective. The group should not be too large, as it reduces individual attention, but a number of factors play a role in this, such as the diagnosis, level of functioning, degree of participation, and also the age of the patient. This provides opportunities for them to interact with each other within structures and interventions specific to the therapy and it is during these sessions they realize that they aren't dealing with this alone which also provides motivation.

Music therapy can be used for long-term and short-term goals. When used for long-term goals, music therapists use medical, environmental, and psychosocial means to encourage patients to explore more satisfying and useful styles of social interaction and coping with the symptoms of their illnesses. It can also allow patients to suppress hallucinations, redirect attention and calm them, and allows a person to re-establish a connection with reality. In short-term music therapy, patients are taught functional additional skills to prevent additional psychiatric hospitalizations and recidivism as well as promote illness management, psychiatric recovery, and rehabilitation. Goals may also include communication, interpersonal intimacy, organization, and relaxation.


Music therapy can be highly advantageous as it can be done without adverse side effects and with flexibility. However, some things to remember is that certain types of music can trigger memories. The music might trigger strong reactions or evoke memories that could range from pleasant to painful. Hence it should only be done under the supervision of trained music therapists since a music therapist is trained to support patients during these processes, and the wrong type of music can also evolve anxiety and cause overstimulation.


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