What is Music Therapy?
Music therapy is based on the understanding that everyone can respond, enjoy and communicate through music. Music is non-verbal which means that sometimes music therapists are the first point of call in accessing someone's expression and true selves.
Music therapy is an evidence-based, clinical profession allied to medicine. The aim is to support each individual towards greater well being and quality of life through the therapeutic use of music. In music therapy, the therapist and client may establish a musical relationship in which they are free to explore, express and communicate within a safe and supportive environment.
We are all born musical beings with heart beats, voices, movement and biological rhythms.
How music affects the brain
Included within our physiological responses is the response of our brains to creating or actively listening to music. Studies show that our brains light up when we listen to our favourite music and continue to create neurological fireworks when we engage in the act of making music together!
"A Stanford study shows that music engages areas of the brain which are involved with paying attention, making predictions and updating events in our memory."
Baker, Mitzi. "Music moves brain to pay attention, Stanford study finds." Stanford Medicine. Accessed February 24, 2015
Music for mental health
In regards to our mental health, with so much happening while we are being musical our brain has less time to spend configuring it's response to stress or anxiety!
In August 2011 the NHS reported the following statistics:
Scores of depression symptoms (ranging from 0-60) improved on average by 4.65 more with the music therapy than standard care alone (95% confidence interval [CI] 0.59 to 8.70).
Scores of anxiety symptoms improved on average by 1.82 more with music therapy than standard care alone (95% CI 0.09 to 3.55).
Scores of general functioning were improved on average by 4.58 more with music therapy than standard care alone (95% CI 8.93 to 0.24).
Individuality and Music
Alongside our innate physiological musical response, a vital element to music therapy engagement lies in the skills and awareness of the therapist to guide us and use their awareness to explore our individual responses to music.
For example, a meaningful song or piece or piece of music can connect with us on several levels. If we are considering a song - the lyrics and emotional content of a melody can connect with us on an emotional and physiological level and can seem to give expression to our very own feelings. Lyrics - combined with a reflective melody and through analysis and consideration - can speak to us deeply. This can be a cathartic means of processing memories and feelings from the past and can sometimes bring us right back to a time and place.
The support of a music therapist can support and guide us through these emotions in a way that is safe and can bring insight to our emotional process.
In this way, music provides an expression and meaning to our emotional experiences - and again through creation and exploration we begin to recognise ourselves, express ourselves and affect change.
Music for physical development & skills
With regards to further physical aspects of our development and the enhancing of skills in areas such as speech and language development, motor development, development and support of communication skills and social skills, music therapists are experienced and trained in the use of music to particularly reflect and enhance these skills.
"Music therapy may have a measurable effect on the speech development of children through the treatment's interactions with fundamental aspects of speech development, including the ability to form and maintain relationships and prosodic abilities. Thus, music therapy may provide a basic and supportive therapy for children with delayed speech development."
Effects of music therapy in the treatment of children with delayed speech development. Wibke Groß, Ulrike Linden, and Thomas Ostermann, 2010
In conclusion music therapy can benefit a huge number of people. I believe in tapping into people's passion and if music is someone's passion they are already open and ready to engage in the process. But some people find their passion through engaging! We're there to communicate musically and with the right therapist you'll be amazed at how you can find your musical voice.