What is Music Therapy?

Health Psychology - Music Therapy

Music Therapy is the utilization of music and all of its facets – physicality, emotions, mentality, aesthetics, and spirituality to help patients improve their overall health. It is one of the more popular and longstanding health psychology practices to help individuals with problems that they are going through – be it social isolation and withdrawal, poor motor skills, emotional problems, and the improvement of the overall quality of life.

Music Therapy makes use of the following to achieve its goals:

  • Psychoacoustics
  • Embodied music cognition
  • Psychotherapy
  • Biomusicology
  • Aesthetics of music
  • Comparative musicology
  • Sensory integration
  • Musical acoustics

Therapists of this kind are found in many institutions where health psychology is being championed – in rehabilitation centers for individuals with special needs, or those who have suffered from stroke, and reminiscence work for the elderly. Music therapy is also being employed in hospitals, centers for cancer, schools, and even correctional facilities.

History of Music Therapy

Music has always been seen as a healing and therapeutic force for a very long time.

  • The Greeks worshipped their God of music, Apollo
  • The Egyptians believed that Aesculapius was able to cure illnesses of the mind through music and song
  • The Arabs built hospitals with music rooms for their patients
  • The Native Americans incorporated chants and dances to help cure patients
  • The British had musicians travelling hospital to hospital, playing music for soldiers and victims of war
  • Plato believed that music is able to affect an individual’s emotions and have an impact on his or her character
  • According to Aristotle, music is a force that purifies the emotions
  • The shepherd David played the harp for King Saul to uplift his spirits
  • Back in 400 B.C., music was used by Hippocrates for mentally-challenged patients

Uses of Music Therapy

As mentioned above, health psychology looks at music therapy as a means to treat behavioral and emotional concerns. As such, music therapists usually train on the different psychological theories to incorporate them with their methods.

Music Therapy In children

For children, therapy can be conducted either individually or with a group. During the first meeting, the therapist would thoroughly assess the child’s level of functioning, and set up goals and action plans for the succeeding meetings. Also, the therapist would play either the guitar or the piano, and encourage the child to the same – or any instrument that is unique to his or her abilities and needs. Among the other benefits of music therapy for children include:

  • A fetus inside a mother’s womb is able to hear music, and has been proven to help the child develop properly. Also, music has been found to help calm infants down and regulate their breathing
  • Music therapy is also found to be an effective form of treatment for children who have autism, as it helps the child stabilize his or her mood, and improve self-expression


Music Therapy In adults

For adults, music therapy is used to treat individuals with mood disorders. Such disorders can range from mild to extreme, in which the individual may consider suicide – which is what makes this form of therapy critical to improving the individual’s thoughts and emotions.

  • Music is essential because it helps the individual form their identity
  • Music provides a sense of individuality and independence, and eventual self-discovery
  • Music is also an effective channel to convey and release emotions that otherwise would have been kept within
  • Music also helps lower anxiety and stress levels

Photo credit: Nickolai Kashrin