Music therapy is the use of music by health care professionals to promote healing and enhance quality of life for their patients. Music therapy may be used to encourage emotional expression, promote social interaction, relieve symptoms, and for other purposes. Music therapists may use active or passive methods with patients, depending on the individual patient’s needs and abilities. The idea of music as a healing influence which could affect health and behavior is as least as old as the writings of Aristotle and Plato. Native Americans and other indigenous groups have used music to enhance traditional healing practices for centuries. Traditional Chinese medicine practitioners have used music for healing. Traditional ragas (“melodic modes” used in classical music in India) have also been used to create different states of mind for healing. The 20th century profession formally began after World War I and World War II when community musicians of all types, both amateur and professional, went to Veterans hospitals around the country to play for the thousands of veterans suffering both physical and emotional trauma from the wars. The patients' notable physical and emotional responses to music led the doctors and nurses to request the hiring of musicians by the hospitals. It was soon evident that the hospital musicians needed some prior training before entering the facility and so the demand grew for a college curriculum. A very brief historical glimpse of this fascinating profession follows, below. The earliest known reference to music therapy appeared in 1789 in an unsigned article in Columbian Magazine titled "Music Physically Considered." In the early 1800s, writings on the therapeutic value of music appeared in two medical dissertations, the first published by Edwin Atlee (1804) and the second by Samuel Mathews (1806). Atlee and Mathews were both students of Dr. Benjamin Rush, a...
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