Benefits of Music Therapy

While music has played an essential role in civilization since ancient times, people in the U.S. only started recognizing the therapeutic properties of music near the end of World War II. As medical teams observed the effects of music on soldiers returning from the frontlines, some healthcare professionals started using it in their practices.

Now, studies suggest that listening to certain kinds of music can release endorphins and dopamine in a way that mirrors physical exercise. Read on to learn more about the physical and emotional benefits of music therapy.

Stress Relief

Some medical researchers believe that unmanaged stress accounts for up to 80% of medical disorders. As such, stress relief is an integral part of healing, especially for people with anxiety or stress disorders. While counselors often prefer that patients remove stress from their lives, this is not always possible. Music therapy offers a coping mechanism for inevitable stressors.

Music therapy can give patients positive, relaxing stimuli on which to focus. Music therapists can use those same stimuli to reinforce positive feelings. With practice, patients can use music to cue the body into physically relaxing, thus reducing their risk for stress-related illnesses.

Music therapy can give patients positive, relaxing stimuli on which to focus

Pain Management

Music can help relieve some of the stress of living with a chronic illness or pain. Furthermore, music therapy can actually decrease the amount of pain that patients report. Studies have shown that patients with chronic pain who use music therapy take less pain medication than before they started these programs. Counselors who see patients with chronic pain can use music in several different ways, including asking clients to listen to music during meditation, write songs, sing their favorite tunes, or even play instruments.

Regaining Physical Abilities

When certain illnesses and injuries cause people to lose physical abilities, music therapy can sometimes help. However, patients should know that music therapy is not a replacement for other prescribed therapies. Instead, counselors use it to complement existing treatments.

Studies show that stroke patients can improve their speech and motor skills through music therapy

People with Parkinson's disease can benefit from a specific type of music therapy known as rhythmic auditory cueing. Counselors use rhythm to regain walking abilities. Many patients with Parkinson's disease describe improvements in their gait when using rhythm. Singing and dancing can also help patients recover skills, including balance, coordination, speaking, and taking full breaths.

Patients can also experience the benefits of music therapy when they recover from strokes. Studies show that stroke patients can improve their speech and motor skills through music therapy. While the area needs more research, experts believe this process works by augmenting neuroplasticity and creating stronger connections within the brain.

Processing Trauma

Traumatic events can leave people with deep emotions that they need to process. While verbal therapy is often helpful for patients with trauma, some individuals need additional help coping. Such patients can benefit from music therapy. Whether people play instruments, sing, or listen, music can have a profound emotional impact.

Some people may have difficulty speaking about the trauma they endured. However, these individuals can use music to access some of these more complicated feelings. Writing songs can help people verbalize their emotions, and singing along to certain songs can help them through some of these feelings.

Whether people play instruments, sing, or listen, music can have a profound emotional impact

Improved Self Esteem and Motivation

Singing, playing, and writing music requires skills. Individuals who put in the effort to learn to make music also learn to accomplish new things. Even learning to play a single song can greatly boost a person's self-esteem. Learning music can prove particularly helpful for children who struggle with self-esteem and motivation. When they prove to themselves that they can learn new and challenging things, that confidence can spill over into other parts of their lives.

Coping With Illness

Like trauma, a serious diagnosis can bring on difficult and complicated feelings. For example, patients who have cancer may struggle to process the intense emotional and physical aspects of their illnesses. Music therapy can help patients with cancer and other life-threatening diseases cope with both types of pain.

Music helps people express the strong emotions that come with a diagnosis. They can write songs about the things they feel or listen to music by other people dealing with similar pains. Music therapy can also help patients cope with the difficult treatments that they need to fight severe illnesses.

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