The healing power of music

Music moves us; when we listen to a sad song, it has the ability to remind us of past heartbreak and pain or help us cope with current troubles. When we listen to a happy song, we feel excited and ready to take on the day. For some of us, music even helps to center focus while doing work. It’s no secret that music is something incredibly unique to the human race, bringing us comfort when we feel lost. Because of music’s powerfully positive effects, it is even used for therapy.

“Music Therapy is the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program,” according to the American Music Therapy Association.

What actually happens in the brain while receiving music therapy is a complicated process, but Annie Robertson, intern at Heart and Harmony Music Therapy, helps explain it in simpler terms.

Music is made up of many components including pitch, rhythm, melody, timbre, tempo, and dynamics to name a few,” Robertson said. “In listening to and playing music, the brain is focusing on all of these aspects at once. Music can be used both to build new neural pathways in habilitation and the teaching of new skills as well as to rebuild neural pathways after brain injury or disease, (this concept is called neuroplasticity). Depending on a patient’s diagnosis, their therapy can include moving and listening to music or even singing or creating music.”

What makes music therapy so special is its ability to reach “people of all ages, backgrounds, and diagnoses,” Robertson states. Music therapy can also motivate “many people who aren’t typically motivated to engage in more traditional therapies.” However, Robertson notes that no one type of therapy is superior to the others, and although music therapy has been helpful to many, there is a possibility that some people would better benefit from a different type of therapy.

The type of music used in therapy sessions widely varies. It is a common misconception that only one type of music can be healing and therapeutic; instead, the music chosen for therapy is based on what a client prefers and enjoys.

“We use client-preferred music in our sessions, so on any given day we sing songs all the way from Sesame Street to Johnny Cash to KISS,” says Robertson.

Music therapy can be beneficial for a wide range of people with mental illnesses, including those with schizophrenia and depression. It can even be utilized for people with Alzheimer’s or autism, coupled with other disability-specific treatments.

Even without official music therapy, people can still find sanctuary in music.

“Music literally saved my life in my early twenties when I felt lost and alone,” explained Mrs. Davis, All Saints’ Middle and Upper School Choral Director.

Being on her own at college could be lonely at times without her family there to support her. In moments where she doubted herself, music “carried [her] through and lifted [her] spirits.” When she utilizes the gift of her singing voice, she feels “strong and powerful.”

When listening to music in everyday life, Robertson urges people to “consider the healthy and unhealthy ways you might be using music…” and ask themselves if they are “using music to avoid dealing with real-world problems, or…using music to relieve stress and elevate [their] mood.”

Music is a powerful tool which can be used for beneficial purposes in therapy or even simply in our daily lives. If you are wondering if you could benefit from music therapy, start with some research. There are plenty of places that offer or specialize in music therapy right here in Fort Worth, such as Heart and Harmony Music Therapy.

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