4th February 2023
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Have you listened to music to calm your nerves? Ever wondered why people listen to music when they are sad? Well, the answer lies in the therapeutic power of music. It is used as a form of treatment known as music therapy. 

 What is music therapy? 

Music therapy is an established health profession in which music is used within a therapeutic relationship to address physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs of individuals. It can also relieve stress and improve general wellness.  

However, listening to music casually is not a type of this treatment. An example of this therapy is helping patients to reduce pain in the hospital. Music therapists also work with individuals to recover their motor skills. 

How does it work?

Music therapy is broad and can be used in different health conditions. Moreover, different elements of music—timbre, harmony, pitch, volume, duration and form, are used in songwriting and producing rhythmic music.

In neurologic music therapy, the relationship between the brain and music is explored. A study reveals people with advanced Alzheimer’s can still retain their musical memories. Music therapy can reduce the effects of dementia and improve motor skills. In the University of Miami, it was used to treat people living with Parkinson’s disease. The music therapists believe the rhythm of the music can elicit slow movements when patients try to synchronize their bodies to the sounds.

Dr. Oliver Sacks, MD a neuroscientist and Author of Awakenings said, “I regard music therapy as a tool of great power in many neurological disorders — Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s — because of its unique capacity to organize or reorganize cerebral function when it has been damaged.”

As a calming effect

This kind of treatment is also useful for children. Lullabies and soft music can soothe premature babies. Furthermore, babies with cardiovascular conditions have been known to benefit from it. A single pilot study on babies with this condition revealed positive results. It showed a decrease in their heart and respiratory rates in babies after their therapy session. It can also be used in counseling sessions with children dealing with abuse. 

Dr Clive Robbins, the co-founder of Nordoff-Robbins, a clinic that uses music to help children said  “Almost all children respond to music. Music is an open-sesame, and if you can use it carefully and appropriately, you can reach into that child’s potential for development.”

In music psychotherapy, different methods like singing a precomposed song or improvisation are employed.  This is used to achieve greater self-awareness, emotional release and self-expression. It can also improve interpersonal skills, and cognitive restructuring. It is also thought to be good for psychiatric conditions. 

Presently, in the world

 In the United States of America, only individuals with at least bachelor’s degree in music therapy are regarded as professional music therapists. These individuals are required to have musical knowledge, clinical and music therapy foundation. 

This therapy is currently in 13 countries including Singapore, Canada, Australia and Sweden. Although it is undergoing more research, music therapy offers a ray of hope.

Ruth Torty

Ruth Torty is a biochemist, and freelance science writer. She writes to shed light on health issues, rare diseases and science research in Nigeria. She is also a creative writer and has published on different literary sites including Spillwords and Nnoko Stories. She is passionate about genomics and its role in healthcare.

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