Music Therapy Essay

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Music Therapy: Is It The Cure To Mental & Physical Problems? Music therapy is defined as the skillful use of music and musical elements by an accredited music therapist to promote, maintain, and restore mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health. Music has nonverbal, creative, structural, and emotional qualities. These are used in the therapeutic relationship to facilitate contact, interaction, self-awareness, learning, self-expression, communication, and personal development (Source: Canadian Association of Music Therapy).

In other words, music therapy is the use of music by a trained professional to achieve therapeutic goals. Goal areas include, but are not limited to, motor skills, social/interpersonal development, cognitive development, self-awareness, and spiritual enhancement. Music therapy is now an established health service similar to occupational therapy and physical therapy. Music therapists use music to facilitate changes that are non-musical in nature. The use of music for those with arthritis provides opportunity for pain relief, anxiety and stress reduction and positive changes in both mood and emotional state.

Music therapists are found in nearly every area of the helping professions. Some commonly found practices include developmental work (communication, motor skills, etc.) with individuals with special needs, songwriting and listening in reminiscence/orientation work with the elderly, processing and relaxation work, and rhythmic entrainment for physical rehabilitation in stroke victims.

History of Music Therapy

For centuries, music and medicine have been linked together. The Greeks believed that music had the power to heal the body and the soul, as reflected in their mythology, with Apollo - the god of music, giving rise to his son Aesculapius - the god of healing and medicine. Zenocrates, Sarpenter, and Arion were the first Greeks to use music for the purposes of calming the mentally ill. The playwright Homer believed that music could be used to avoid negative feelings, and philosophers such as Confucius, Plato, and Pythagoras believed that daily exposure to music would enhance one’s health. Aristotle went so far as to practice psychocatharsis, a belief that those who suffered from uncontrollable emotions would relapse to their normal condition after having listened to music, which raised their souls to ecstasy (Source: Johnston, K & Rohaly-Davis, J. An introduction to music therapy: Helping the oncology patient in the ICU, 1996).

Music’s acceptance as an effective form of therapy in the medical setting occurred following World War II, when it was used to aide in the recovery of soldiers that were wounded, disabled, or shellshocked. Music therapy deals with the “controlled use of music and its influence on the human being in physiologic, psychological, and emotional integration of the individual during treatment of an illness or disability”. It has also been defined as the “behavioral science that is concerned with the use of specific kinds of music and its ability to produce changes in behavior, emotions, and physiology”. Music has long been recognized as a universal language - capable of breaking down cultural, educational, linguistic, mental, and emotional barriers. It can open lines of communication by eliciting feelings, thoughts and memories, thereby creating a familiar environment reminiscent of the family, homeland, and the past. Its noninvasive nature allows it to be used in a variety of clinical settings, ranging from surgery to postoperative care to neonatal care to intensive care. 

Music has been shown to be extremely effective in reducing psychophysiologic stress, pain, and anxiety. By allowing the patient to refocus upon something more pleasant, the isolation and monotony of hospitalization are diverted from his or her attention.2 Further, by reducing self-preoccupation and by filtering out unpleasant and unfamiliar sounds associated with hospitalization, the needs...
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