Does the person have any of the following:
- An interest in music?
- Difficulties with
- Emotions and self-regulation?
- Communication, social, cognitive, and physical skills?
- Troubles with stress, anxiety and depression?
If so, then read on to learn more about music therapy.
Music is an essential part of all societies.
Most people enjoy making and/or listening to music.
Research confirms that making or listening to music has many positive benefits for health.
Studies have shown that piano training for 1-hr a week for 11-weeks can show measurable improvements in depression, anxiety and stress, as well as improved audio-visual temporal processing (Che, 2022).
Music can calm our heartbeat, blood pressure, and breathing, and even affect our body temperature.
Many people know this intuitively, and already use music in their lives.
In addition, trained professionals known as music therapists have training in how to use music in a very deliberate way to help people.
According to the Canadian Association of Music Therapists, Sep 2020
Music therapy is a discipline in which Certified Music Therapists (MTAs) use music purposefully within therapeutic relationships to support development, health, and well-being.
Music therapists use music safely and ethically to address human needs within cognitive, communicative, emotional, musical, physical, social, and spiritual domains.
Music therapy can help in many areas such as:
- Reduce pain and distress. For example, listening to preferred music during medical procedures reduces distress and pain (Çelebi, 2020).
- Help people express themselves.
- Emotional skills
- Help people with expressing feelings, deal with stress and difficult emotions.
- Help with memory.
Music therapy can also help people with various issues and conditions such as:
- Brain conditions and mental health conditions such as
- Developmental Disabilities
- Autism spectrum disorder
- Acquired brain injury
- Stress, anxiety, depression and trauma (Yuqing Che, 2022).
- Hearing Impairments
- Physical Disabilities
- Speech and Language Impairments
Many therapies such as cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) requires talking about the person’s thoughts and feelings. Other types may require the ability to talk about one’s past.
However, many people may not be able to talk about their thoughts, feelings, let alone the past.
For people who are not able to benefit from talking therapy, music therapy is an example of a ‘non-talking’ therapy.
Music therapy interventions will depend on the person’s needs and what level they are able to function at.
Passive interventions include:
- Listening to music, with music chosen by the therapist, based on the client’s preferences and needs.
- The therapist might ask the client to reflect upon the music.
More active interventions include
- Making music, such as singing or playing an instrument.
- Studies show that learning how to play drums with others can be particularly therapeutic for various conditions.
- Writing music
- Writing music requires more ability and capacity of the client, and at the same time, helps develop skills such as creativity and flexibility.
Although music can be soothing and enjoyable, the following are NOT examples of music as they are used in a one-size-fits-all as opposed to a very specific and deliberate fashion.
Music therapy is:
- NOT simply listening to music.
- NOT a person with Alzheimer’s listening to an iPod with headphones of his/her favorite songs;
- NOT simply musician(s), singing, or playing instruments (e.g. guitar or piano) in a nursing home;
- NOT simply playing background music for patients in a hospital.
A music therapist will meet with the person and do an assessment, which includes assessing the person’s needs and strengths.
Music therapy is when a trained music therapist develops a treatment or intervention plan and uses music deliberately, therapeutic way, based on the person’s needs and preferences. They will consider various types of artistic activities based on that person.
The American Music Therapy Association (AMTA) gives the following examples of the work of music therapists:
- Work with older adults to lessen the effects of dementia.
- Work with children and adults to reduce asthma episodes.
- Work with hospitalized patients to reduce pain.
- Work with children who have autism to improve communication capabilities.
- Work with premature infants to improve sleep patterns and increase weight gain.
- Work with people who have Parkinson’s disease to improve motor function.
Canadian Association of Music Therapists
American Music Therapy Association (AMTA)
Çelebi D et al.: The effect of music therapy during colonoscopy on pain, anxiety and patient comfort: A randomized controlled trial, Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, February 2020. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ctcp.2019.101084
Yuqing Che et al, An RCT study showing few weeks of music lessons enhance audio-visual temporal processing, Scientific Reports (2022). DOI: 10.1038/s41598-022-23340-4
Written by the eMentalHealth.ca team.
Disclosures and competing interests: None.
Information in this pamphlet is offered ‘as is' and is meant only to provide general information that supplements, but does not replace the information from your health provider. Always contact a qualified health professional for further information in your specific situation or circumstance.
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Date of Last Revision: Dec 3, 2022