Along with 2020 came an abundance of pandemic-induced challenges. As a 2020
Beachwood High School graduate who is now a music therapy major at Cleveland State
University, I share benefits of music therapy that are proven to be beneficial to people of
all ages. Although this therapy is often used for treatment, its techniques are valuable,
especially during these unprecedented times.
The American Music Therapy Association (AMTA) defines music therapy as being a “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.” AMTA also explains how music therapy addresses physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs of individuals; and that through musical involvement in the therapeutic context, clients’ abilities are strengthened and transferred to other areas of their lives.
Research in music therapy supports its effectiveness in many areas, such as: overall
physical rehabilitation and facilitating movement, increasing people’s motivation to
become engaged in their treatment, providing emotional support for clients and their
families, and providing an outlet for expression of feelings. It is often used in schools,
hospice, nursing homes and hospitals, and targeted toward children, young people and
adults with learning disabilities, physical disabilities, progressive conditions, mental
health conditions, life-limiting conditions, terminal Illness, memory conditions, trauma,
and emotional, behavioral or well-being issues. The beauty of this lyrical therapy is that
anyone who is receptive to its powers can benefit.
My high school senior year research project focused on how music therapy helped heal Congresswoman Gabrielle (Gabby) Giffords in 2011 after she was shot in the head by Jared Lee Loughner, a schizophrenic man who attended one of the congresswoman’s events in Tucson, Arizona. After she was transported to the TIRR Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston, Texas and diagnosed with aphasia, a speech disorder where the patient has trouble finding words, Congresswoman Gifford’s music therapist, Ms. Morrow, along with a team of speech therapists and pathologists, worked with her on a near-daily basis. There is emotional footage of her when her treatment progressed and she was able to sing “This little Light of Mine.” The total recovery process took 10 months. Always a public servant, Congresswoman Giffords now helps raise awareness about aphasia, and
advocates for gun violence.
Music therapy was also cited in a memoir written by Betsey King, a music
therapist/instructor from Nazareth College. The patient was a 60+ year-old male who
suffered injuries from a helicopter crash. He had to go through a grueling physical
therapy exercise routine that involved squats, burpees, jumping jacks, pushups, etc.
Ultimately, the music therapist would sing and the patient would echo back, albeit fairly
crudely through gritted teeth because of his efforts to complete his painful exercises. The
patient was grateful, stating that he didn’t know how he would have gotten through the
exercises if it weren’t for the music.
Finally, I cite instances of music therapy use with children, also referenced in
Betsey’s memoir. An 11-year old girl who had an asthma attack during a soccer game
had collapsed, and therapists wrote songs about her favorite colors and things to do.
When a nurse came in with an IV injection, the girl was fearful. The therapist drew
attention to her guitar and began singing: “My arm says ‘no, no thank you’ but my lungs
say ‘yes, thank you’...” As the girl sang along, her heart rate slowed, she was visibly
more relaxed, and she accepted the injection.
Another instance shows that music therapy can also be used with toddlers. A two-year old was being quite fussy, the music therapist walked in and started singing, andthe toddler was calmed down.
Music soothes the soul and, thankfully, many music therapy programs are
available here in northeast Ohio. As far as my knowledge goes, The Music Settlement,
The Beck Center for the Arts, Cleveland Clinic, Lake Health, University Hospitals, and
The Fine Arts Association all offer wonderful music therapy services. All you need to do
is inquire. If you’re interested in studying music therapy, Cleveland State
University, Ohio University, Eastern Michigan University, and Baldwin-Wallace
Universities all have great programs.
Hopefully, after reading this article, you have a better understanding of music
therapy and will consider it as a treatment option either for yourself or someone else.
Now that you’ve finished reading this article, go turn on some music, take a deep breath,
drink some water, relax, and stay safe and stay clean!
Common Goals of Music Therapy, as Identified by Everyday Harmony
Communication skills (using vocal/verbal sounds and gestures)
Social skills (making eye contact, turn-taking, initiating interaction, and self-esteem)
Sensory skills (through touch, listening, and levels of awareness)
Physical skills (fine and gross motor control and movement)
Cognitive skills (concentration and attention, imitation, and sequencing)
Emotional skills (expression of feelings nonverbally)
Let the music play…
The following music benefits were compiled from various sources:
Music is heart healthy
It stimulates the mind
It elevates mood
It reduces stress
It relieves symptoms of depression
It stimulates memories
It helps manage pain
It helps people eat less
It boosts exercise performance
It can lower anxiety
It decreases fatigue
It jump-starts creativity
It enhances expressive abilities
It is good for the soul