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Published on: 28 Oct 2016 by rudyard
“Music what?” is probably what first comes to your mind when you hear the phrase music therapy. We all know what music is, and we don’t have a problem with that. We also know what therapy is, without any problem with it. But when these two words are combined, confusion starts.
What is music therapy?
We are all aware that music plays a vital part in our daily lives. You probably have a playlist you listen to when you jog, another list when you’re sad, and another one for random events in your life.
You also know that Super Bowl would be very different without the halftime ceremonies: the singing, dancing, and head banging.
In other words, you admit that music affects us, mostly in a positive way. And that is what music therapy is all about.
If psychological therapists use words to help their patients, music therapists use music.
“So they sing to their patients and the patients sing back to the therapist?” you ask. “Glee?”
It depends. It depends on what the patient needs. It may be Glee type or Broadway Musical. It’s all need-based.
But in a nutshell, music therapy uses all the elements of a song to help patients physically, emotionally, and psychologically.
How does it work and does it really work?
You might be wondering how music therapy can help a man who suffered stroke speak again. Well, it can, surprisingly.
How does music do that?
Think about the elements of music: words or lyrics, rhythm, melody, harmony, timbre, form, dynamic, and tempo. Each of these has a different effect on us, doesn’t it?
When we are happy or sad, we look for songs that can express how we feel. When we are feeling ecstatic, we look for tempo and rhythm that make us dance. Often times, it’s the other way around. The music we hear makes us feel happy, sad, or like dancing.
In other words, our reaction to music may either be because it brings back memories, it sounds familiar, it stirs our emotion, or it makes us participate whether actively or passively.
If you think about it, our reaction to music is a result of the different parts of our brain simultaneously working. When we hear the music, the auditory part functions, then the words are also processed, then the movements are also encouraged especially if it is an upbeat song.
Going back to the man who suffered stroke and how music can help him speak, there is a high chance that when he hears a song he is familiar with, his brain will automatically recall the words to the song and help him say it. Confused? See Dr. Lane’s experience.
Now, a music therapist should know how to use each of these elements to come up with a program that will be beneficial for the patients. And it goes without saying that the therapist should also be careful not to include the elements that will aggravate the patients’ conditions.
For example, if the patient has trouble having his attention fixed on one thing, the therapist should create a program that helps the patient focus.If a patient refuses to stay in a hospital because it is an unfamiliar place, playing a song familiar to him may help him slowly feel at ease. Both of which may be considered a passive participation response.
Another example is when a patient is undergoing a therapy to be able to walk normally again, the
therapist can use the rhythmic auditory stimulation therapy. This type of therapy uses rhythm to entrain the brain to follow the beat. When the brain has been entrained to it, it will order the feet to follow as a response, a type of active participation response.
Is it for you?
Music therapy is clearly for everyone. You don’t have to be hospitalized to enjoy its benefits. On your spare time, hook your music player to your soundbar, and list down the songs you enjoy.
On your other spare time, take note of the music you dislike and the reason you didn’t like it. Was it just because of your mood at that time? The lyrics? The tempo?
From these lists you can somehow figure out which ones are therapeutic for you on specific periods in your life and avoid the ones that will make you feel worse.
Erin Taylor is the founder of YouthTune.Com, a music adventurer. I love learning about music and audio devices, which I eventually share with others so that they too can go on exploring the melodious world of music.