Music is such an essential part of our lives, intertwined in so many of our daily activities.
Anyone who has blasted a favourite rock classic at a party, pressed play on an energizing pop anthem mid-run, or validated a broken heart to the strains of a sad ballad can attest to the deep transformative power of music.
What you may not know is that the health benefits of music have been studied and practiced in a profession dating back to mid-last century. Certified music therapists have been working with many communities across the country for decades. From helping patients recover from brain injuries to comforting the elderly in long-term care, music therapy’s health and wellness effects have been witnessed extensively, and time and time again science has shown – it works.
Why Music Therapy?
Music Therapy has been shared through many mediums of pop culture including: dialogue on television shows, being mentioned during music award programs, in national bestselling books, written about in popular blogs, as well as shown on international news programs. However, music therapy as a healthcare profession can still be misunderstood.
A certified music therapist has been trained to ensure music is being used effectively and within the largest body of knowledge — serving a wide range of citizens, from infants to the elderly. Under the umbrella of counselling therapists, music therapists work in diverse settings from the most specialized of medical settings — ICU, neurorehabilitation, and end-of-life care to wellness settings including employee assistance programs (EAP). You will find many music therapists also working in the disability sector and in programs that support students and their learning needs.
While every music therapy session is different, and there is no one prescription, the following goals regardless of age, are often requested:
• decrease stress and/or anxiety
• reclaim focus and productivity
• motivate movements and mobility
• ignite the memory
• increase comfort in a social environment
• improve capacity for new learning and attention
• boost confidence and feelings of self-worth
• in general, “feel better”
In recent times the increase of being asked to target emotional well-being, mood regulation, and overall mental health, has been on the rise. Music therapy is perfectly suited to this domain due to music’s very nature of bypassing the verbal and going straight to the heart of the matter – feelings.
Music therapists help the brain get the exercise it wants
Music, when used with skill and intention, is an effective and efficient resource that can dissolve the sense of stress and frustration. As stress declines, individuals can remember what they need to do, tackle a new project with more flexible thinking, or generally feel a level of control they didn’t have just minutes before when they were triggered. The best part? They are able to make their next, best decision with increased clarity and heart.
The ultimate aim of music therapy, like all therapy, is to help the individual take small and consistent steps towards their goals that often include returning to their home, quality of life activities, and getting back to satisfying work and life.
Music therapists help individuals find the right kind of music at the right time
Just like our physical health, our mental health requires attention, perhaps now more than ever. Music therapists believe there is no better way to give it the care it needs than through the right music, at the right time, and in the right way.
Clinician, researcher and author, Dr. Bruce Perry highlights one music element he feels is particularly effective. He says that, “the only way to move from super-high anxiety states to calmer more cognitive states, is rhythm.” He and others go on to support that by creating music, talking about it, or simply developing a purposeful playlist, a person can enter into a deep-seated creative process that will ease their mind and guide them to see the world through a different lens — helping them feel less stuck. Spending time in music therapy can provide so many of the things we crave as humans – challenges, validation, recognition, and an opportunity to express freely.
Introduce Music Therapy into Your Day-to-Day Life:
Here are the top 5 tips that can help people at any age:
1. Take time to identify your preferences through a thorough song review.
2. Create the right music toolkit — speakers, headphones, playlists.
3. Harness the power of music throughout your day. Even five minutes can make a difference.
4. Remember music is a blend of sound and silence — both are important for your health and well-being.
5. Stay curious about new music — it will support a desired, growth mindset.
How can people find a music therapist in their area or online?
Canada – musictherapy.ca
USA – musictherapy.org
Music Therapists around the world – wfmt.info