Did you know listening to upbeat music while doing a task like washing dishes or cleaning the house can help you finish the task quickly? Did you also know that listening to music can relax the mind, energise the body, and even help people manage pain? Music at this point is that one friend that is always there for the best and the worst moments of your life.

You even have certain moments in your life that you recall because of the song that was playing during that moment. You listen to music when you are happy; you listen to music when you are sad. People even create playlists that go with whatever mood they are in that day.

But did you know that music can be used as therapy?

What is music therapy?

According to the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA) music therapy is the clinical and evidence-based way of using music to offer individual healing needs, these needs can be personal to each patient as they can be done physically, emotionally and even socially. Music therapists must be credentialed professionals who have completed an approved music therapy program. The AMTA claims that music therapy programs can be designed to achieve goals such as managing stress, enhancing memory, and alleviating pain.

The history of music therapy

Music therapy began as long ago as the 20th century. According to the AMTA it 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 United Kingdom to play for the thousands of veterans suffering both physical and emotional trauma from the wars.

The AMTA claims that doctors and nurses during that time started requesting the hiring of musicians for hospitals as patients started having noticeable physical and emotional responses to music. 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.

Encyclopaedia Britannica highlights that even though music therapy has ancient roots, there is a lot of Western bias surrounding it as most of everything that has been studied and recorded about this type of therapy has been done through Western ideas.

Music therapy as a clinical practice

A publication by Encyclopaedia Britannica says a variety of tools and genres of music are used in music therapy. Examples of these tools include improvisation, original song writing, lyric interpretation, and listening to and singing familiar music.

The music used depends on the patient’s needs and preferences. According to an example from Britannica, if a music therapist is working with a patient who has a movement disorder (such as those caused by Parkinson’s disease or a stroke), rhythmic music can be used to motivate movement.

The publication also claims that a music therapist may use sedative music to assist a person in achieving a deep state of relaxation in preparation for surgery, childbirth, chemotherapy, or a transition to hospice care.

With patients who suffer from dementia, music therapists can bridge the loss of memory through music. Recalling positive memories through music therapy can provide comfort, motivation, and relaxation when the person is anxious, agitated, or needing to complete activities of daily living, such as bathing or dressing.

Benefits of listening to music

Even though music can be used clinically, most people use it every day of their lives. It helps them through dark times and even happier times. Here are a few facts you may know about music from an article by Thrive Global:

1. Music can improve your memory – Certain songs can help to bring back memories, as far back as childhood, to make them feel relevant once again.

2. Music can provide you with coping mechanisms – Since 1992, studies have shown that music makes time seem like it’s going faster when played in environments where waiting is required. Like if you are standing in a queue, for example, listening to music may make the process seem faster than normal.

3. Music helps relieve anxiety – Listening to a song that motivates you when you’re feeling anxious about doing something helps you to feel like you can conquer your fears.

4. Music helps in social events – Attending a party when you know no one, starting up a conversation about the song playing can help.

5. Music can relieve stress – How many times have you been stressed and listening to your favourite song relieved you? Too many times? Same for me.

Life is undetermined; it’s full of highs and lows. We all have moments of wanting to give up because we feel like we have given so much, but music is that one friend that listens and reassures you that it really isn’t that bad. Music from the heart heals so many things, physical and emotional. Listen to it as much as you like – it may just heal you too.


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Tell us: What role does music play in your life?