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Unleashing the Healing Potential: Exploring the Benefits of Music Therapy

Updated: Feb 20

"Where words fail, music speaks." – Hans Christian Anderson


Fundamental Rudiments


Sound is defined as “vibrations that travel through the air or another medium and can be heard when they reach a person's or animal's ear”. Music is “vocal or instrumental sounds (or both) combined in such a way as to produce beauty of form, harmony, and expression of emotion”.


At the age of about 5 or 6, my mother decided it would be beneficial for me to learn to play and study music; and so, at that age, I began to formally study both the practice and theory of music. I shifted through different instruments and styles of music throughout my life, whether it was learning to play Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da on the piano while singing at age 8, to more recently, challenging myself on my preferred instrument, the drums, by playing along with Dillinger Escape Plan (a Math-Metal band) or The Mars Volta (a fusion of Latin Jazz and Progressive Metal). What I’ve found, however, is even if I’m playing along with the most basic drummer of all, Ringo Starr, or jamming on guitar with the Allman Brothers, after about 10 minutes of playing, I feel a LOT better.


"One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain." – Bob Marley


Music therapy


When I Get That Feeling, I Need… Musical Healing


In the First book of Samuel, in the Bible, David plays a lyre to ease King Saul’s stress. The Greek God Apollo’s son, Aesculapius, was said to cure diseases of the mind by using song and music. Music was used for healing by Egyptian priest-physicians in 5000 BC. Plato said that music affected the emotions and could influence the character of an individual. Aristotle taught that music affects the soul and described music as a force that purified the emotions. In the thirteenth century, Arab hospitals contained music-rooms for the benefit of the patients. In the United States, Native American medicine men often employed chants and dances as a method of healing patients.


According to the American Music Therapy Association, Music Therapy is “an allied health profession”, and “is the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program.” Music therapy, like Art Therapy, is something that can be adjusted for pretty much any person and any issue that the individual is struggling with. Modifications can be made for people with physical disabilities. The target demographic is vast, as it can be used with children, adolescents, adults, and seniors. While Mental Wellness is an already known benefit of music, Music Therapy has been used to treat a vast array of issues, such as Autism, Heart Disease, Stroke, Dementia, Aphasia, and Cancer. There has even been significant evidence on the use of Music Therapy to help with grief. Music’s healing power is so well known, that in 1945, the US Department of War issued Technical Bulletin 187, which described the use of music in the recovery of military service members in Army hospitals.

What Kinds of Music Therapy Are There?


There are 2 forms of Music Therapy: Active, where the individual is involved in the creation of music and sound, and Receptive, where the individual listens to music and sounds. With that covered, there are different models and approaches to Music Therapy: The Bonny Method of Guided Imagery and Music, which uses music and guided imagery to help an individual work through their issues. The Nordoff-Robbins approach is based on the belief that everyone is capable of finding meaning in and benefiting from musical experience. This approach focuses on treatment through the creation of music by both therapist and client together. The therapist uses various techniques so that even the most low functioning individuals can actively participate. The Orff approach has a strong emphasis on social integration and the involvement of parents in the therapeutic process. The basis for interaction in this method is known as responsive interaction, in which the therapist meets the child at their level and responds according to their initiatives, combining both humanistic and developmental psychology philosophies.


"Music is probably the only real magic I have encountered in my life. There's not some trick involved with it. It's pure and it's real. It moves, it heals, it communicates and does all these incredible things." – Tom Petty


Here are some easy ways to practice Music Therapy by yourself at home.

  • Writing and singing songs.

  • Improvising on songs and music pieces.

  • Playing a musical instrument.

  • Using musical devices and technology.

  • Listening to music (with and without visual imagery)

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