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The Benefits of Music Therapy


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

  1. Communication skills (using vocal/verbal sounds and gestures)

  2. Social skills (making eye contact, turn-taking, initiating interaction, and self-esteem)

  3. Sensory skills (through touch, listening, and levels of awareness)

  4. Physical skills (fine and gross motor control and movement)

  5. Cognitive skills (concentration and attention, imitation, and sequencing)

  6. Emotional skills (expression of feelings nonverbally)

——————————

Let the music play…

The following music benefits were compiled from various sources:

  1. Music is heart healthy

  2. It stimulates the mind

  3. It elevates mood

  4. It reduces stress

  5. It relieves symptoms of depression

  6. It stimulates memories

  7. It helps manage pain

  8. It helps people eat less

  9. It boosts exercise performance

  10. It can lower anxiety

  11. It decreases fatigue

  12. It jump-starts creativity

  13. It enhances expressive abilities

  14. It is good for the soul

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