Music as Therapy

Music as Therapy

Madelyn Jimenez       , Staff Writer

Is music an effective form of therapy?                                                                                                 

Music can make people feel so many different emotions at once: nostalgia, sadness, joy, pleasure, frustration, motivation. Music allows people to dig even further into their feelings. Most people say that music makes them feel better when they are down. But does it work as therapy?

Music therapy is the use of music for individualized goals such as improving one’s mood and reducing stress. The health community supports that it is a well-established evidence-based strategy.  The Cleveland Clinic states, “Music therapy may help you psychologically, emotionally, physically, spiritually, cognitively, and socially.” 

There are five factors that contribute to the effects of music therapy: modulation of attention, modulation of emotion, modulation of cognition, modulation of behavior, and modulation of communication.

Modulation of attention is when music gets our attention, it tends to distract us from stimuli that lead to negative emotions such as stress, pain, and worry. This can explain why music has such an anxiety and pain-reducing effect, especially during medical procedures, according to Koelsch (2009). 

The second factor of music therapy is through modulation of emotion. Music regulates the brain’s initiation, termination, and generation, and modulates emotions states Heather Craig, a provisional psychologist. 

Modulation of cognition is when you memorize a song, both beat and lyrics, then you associate it with a time of your life. You relate with that song when you put your own meaning to it behind its lyrics and rhythm. 

Music therapy also uses modulation of behavior. Music conditions your behavior of movement, walking, speaking, and more.  

The fifth factor that contributes to music therapy is modulation of communication. Music allows people to share their thoughts and emotions without having to say a single word. This is a great way for non-verbal people to communicate with others. 

Everyone’s perception of music is obviously very different. What one hears, another may not hear. That’s why the psychology of music therapy also focuses on psychoacoustics (perception of music). Receptive relaxation music therapy is often used for the treatment of anxiety, stress, and depression. Music therapy involves passive listening to pre-recorded music. There is also the Bonny Method of Guided Imagery and Music created by Helen Lindquist. The Bonny Method provides guided imagery with music. The patient would focus on an image with added music, with the image being a starting point to any related problems the patient is having. This method proved effective in helping patients cure their anxiety; it also helps resolve personal needs, such as relationships or life issues. 

Although there is more research to be done, this method of therapy has proven effective for 1.5 million people in the United States. It is an important piece of the future of mental health care. 

* Image from (Public Domain)