Martha was a single parent of three children. Her last child Dora was autistic. Raising the children on her own, working to make ends meet and taking care of Dora was beginning to take its toll on her. She loved her children equally but realized Dora required more time and attention. She had tried so many options to help Dora but most of them were proving too expensive. One day, as she listened to the radio, she heard someone mention that music therapy could transform autistic children’s lives. She made a point to find out more.

What is Music Therapy?

The commonly accepted music therapy definition is the application of music to restore or maintain health, wellbeing and enhance quality of life. It’s usually carried out by trained professionals and is not advised before consulting your doctor. It’s inappropriate if you don’t like or enjoy music and for psychiatric conditions, music should be used alongside other therapy methods. In therapy, choice of music is vital as your personal preferences will produce better outcomes. During a session, you listen and respond to either live or recorded music. A discussion of this helps personal expression and self-examination.

Who Needs Musical Therapy?

Anyone who enjoys music can benefit from this therapy. However, it is commonly used on;

  • Children and adolescents with learning disabilities developmental disabilities and behavioral disorders
  • Pregnant women  or those in labor
  • Patients with Alzheimer’s, cancer, brain injuries, alcohol and drug abusers
  • Patients with mental health disorders
  • Anyone seeking a holistic approach

6 Types of Musical Therapy

If you or a loved one needs therapy, any of these types may be applied.

1. Bonny Method of Guided Imagery and Music

Helen Lindquist Bonny developed the method which involves music with guided imagery. Choice of Music is important and is influenced by session goals and patient characteristics. Mental imagery helps patients deal with psychological and physiological issues. Therapy begins when you focus on a certain image assisting you reflect and discuss problems. Music works as a co-therapist, increasing awareness and helping you find solutions.

2. Kodaly

This therapy method uses sequence, rhythm, notation and movement as a foundation to assist in your learning and healing. During therapy the method will impact on your concept formation, learning performance, perceptual function and motor skills. It enhances rhythm, music literacy and intonation. This therapy was inspired by Zoltán Kodály

3. Nordoff-Robbins

This approach centers on music creation with a therapist’s assistance.  It’s globally accepted incorporating clients of different ability and experience levels. It’s founded on the assumption that anyone can benefit from music through finding meaning in it. Paul Nordoff and Clive Robbins created this method after decades of research on music therapy for disabled children. They researched on children with learning difficulties, mental disorders, autism and emotional disturbances.

4. Neurologic Music Therapy (NMT)

It is therapy founded on music perception and production and their impact on brain function and behavior. It compares your brain with and without music exposure and alters this to effect changes in your brain even without music. NMT experts argue that engaging with music develops your brain.  This therapy exercises your motor responses by maturing motor skills.

5. Orff-Schulwerk

Gertrude Orff developed this therapy for children with disabilities and developmental delays, upon recognition that medicine was insufficient. It applies music to enhance children’s learning abilities. It focuses on education and human psychology thereby boosting your interaction with others through music.

6. Dalcroze Eurhythmics

This method teaches you music but can also be therapy. The Dalcroze Method was created by Émile Jaques-Dalcroze and concentrates on structure, movement expression and rhythm. It is ideal if you have motor difficulties because it will improve physical awareness significantly.

6 Benefits of Music Therapy

The benefits of musical therapy are numerous and include the following;

1. Treatment of Diseases

Music boosts your immune system increasing production of natural killer cells and antibodies. In dementia patients, it improves moods, reduces symptoms, lessens restless behavior and increases collaboration with daily tasks. In cancer patients, it reduces symptoms, aids movement, decreases nausea from chemotherapy and enhances overall quality of life. It also enhances social interaction in children.

2. Contributes to Infant Development

Children who listen to music from their mother’s womb become more familiar to it. For newborns, soothing music helps reduce agitation and increase relaxation. For your pre-term infants, musical therapy leads to increased weight gain, enhanced feeding rates, a deeper sleep and reduced heart rates.

3. Reduces Stress

Listening to soothing music relaxes your body by reducing cortisol, the stress hormone. The music controls your heart rate, decreasing stress hormones and lowering blood pressure. For people with mental disorders, it provides an effective treatment enabling them concentrate.

4. Increased Response to Antidepressants

Music based therapy has contributed to decreased blood pressure, respiratory rate, heart rate and improved moods in depressed women. It is also beneficial for depressed hemodialysis patients and those who have undergone knee replacement surgery.

5. Healthier Sleep

Music significantly affects sleep in the elderly by causing longer sleep periods, less sleep disruption and better sleep quality. It takes less time to fall asleep and increases daytime efficiency. In children, music induces sedative effects especially those going through EEG testing.

6. Controls Pain

Music provides natural pain relief in two major ways; first it enhances production of oxytocin hormone, a pain reliever. Secondly, it allows you to focus on enjoyment helping you forget the pain. Pleasant music activates your brain’s reward center releasing dopamine and leading to lowered pain. Active engagement in dancing or singing increases your pain tolerance.

Music Therapy for Autism

Autism is a disorder characterized by communication difficulties, reduced social interaction and limited repetitive behavior. It begins in the early stages of a child’s life at around two years. Patients with autism often exhibit heightened interest in music. If you or a loved one has autism, you might consider this option as it has multiple benefits. Music improves attention, body awareness, focus and communication in teens and children with autism. Therapy will assist you reduce anxiety, increase social interaction and speech output. It supports autistic people’s comprehension in daily routines. Autistic people have higher abilities in musical preference, emotion labeling in music and pitch processing compared to their peers.

Music therapy works and especially for autistic people. You can try it to supplement the therapy you are currently on. A word of caution; avoid high volume music as it could damage your ears and only undergo the therapy in supervised sessions. Using headphones for music might interfere with your cooperating in medical procedures.


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Author: Self Healing Institute

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