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7 Ways Music Therapy Benefits Mental Health Disorders 

Music has been related to moods since well, the beginning of music. You just got your heart broken and what do you do? Listen to sad love songs and pine away for the one you love. You need a little pep in your step at work, turn on some rock and roll and before you know it you are singing and smiling and working. Music is written with emotion and with the intent to make you feel that emotion. Music is wonderful and extremely therapeutic.

Music therapy has been used for years among mental health professionals to help people improve their physical and mental abilities. They do this because music has been found to boost moods, even sad music can do this. The American Music Therapy Association reports that music can manage stress, improve memory and ease pain.

Music therapy can be used in many ways in the therapeutic setting. Some therapists have their patients listen to music. Some have their patients analyze lyrics. Others may have their patients write their own songs or have them play instruments even if they aren’t musically trained. The key is to use music in a variety of ways to stimulate the brain chemicals that make a person feel happy.

There are many areas in which music provides beneficial and healing properties for people coping with mental health disorders. Music can help improve mental health of those suffering from dementia, depression, anxiety, eating disorders, attention deficit disorders, post-traumatic stress disorders and even those with autism spectrum disorders.

Music and Dementia

There are reports stating using music therapy with dementia patients could possibly improve memory recall, boost moods, aid in pain relief and help them better interact socially. This happens because music boosts brain activity.

The brain activity that is boosted in dementia patients consists of bringing up memories, as well as physical and emotional closeness. This can happen because music appreciation and recognition are one of the last abilities of a person with dementia.

The pioneer in this area of therapy is Connie Tomaino, who has spent close to four decades proving that music therapy is a great asset to those suffering from dementia.

Music and Depression

The vibrations of music create a healing process. They help reduce stress and therefore, ease the symptoms of depression. Sad music has even been found to ease depression in some people. Music uplifts a person’s mood. The more uplifting music you listen to, the better your mood.

One study of 79 depressed individuals showed positive feedback for the use of music in therapy. The participants who used music in addition to their standard care showed significant improvements in their mental health.

Music and Attention Deficit Disorders

Music therapy is being recommended for treatment of attention deficit disorders, especially in children. It is proving to help with focus, gaining self-control, and it can help kids interact socially on an improved level.

Using music therapy with children is not just about listening to songs. It allows those with attention deficit disorders to sing, dance, play and listen so that brain activity is stimulated in all the right places.

Music and Autism

Working with those who have autism, music therapy helps them focus on communication skills, behaviors, thinking skills, social skills and in regulating their own emotions. This can be freeing for children and adults who have struggled with the inability to become more social or how to control and monitor their own behaviors, thoughts and feelings.

Some activities that involve music therapy in the treatment of autism include the singing circle which can help calm a person with autism and allow them time to learn more effectively. Rhythm patterns help a person focus and aids in memory development. Fading to silence allows the person with autism to properly transition from their time with music to their time with no music. They can ease into a quiet time without feeling stressed.

Music and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Music has been shown to be a healing agent among many types of trauma patients. Children who were in a tornado used music to help them relax and transition back into school with less fear. People who experienced the 9/11 attacks used music therapy to help them process their feelings. Even soldiers with combat experience have shown great progress when they use music therapy to help them cope.

The theory behind using music to treat post-traumatic stress disorder is that music wakes up the brain chemicals that can distract a person from feeling pain. The dopamine chemicals spike when listening to music, offering more feelings of happiness and relaxation and less fear and anxiety.

Music and Anxiety

Music can reduce blood pressure and help you relax. It can lead to a reduction in anxiety also. The best way you can use music when you are anxious includes matching your mood with the music you listen to. Also, play music you enjoy, not just random songs you have never heard before. Furthermore, consider music without words. Sometimes instrumental music can help you relax even better because you are not focusing on the words, just the tempo, beats and vibrations, which all have healing effects.

Music and Eating Disorders

In a study that evaluated the use of music with patients suffering from post-meal anxiety proved that those who listened to music had a decreased amount of anxiety after they ate. They found that if music could help ease anxiety after a meal, it could also ease anxiety before a meal. This would greatly help those with eating disorders.

Music therapy can also help people with eating disorders learn to express themselves and communicate their feelings when they may not be able to without the aid of music. Music can be a great liaison between the patient, therapist and family members because they can use a song or lyrics to explain what they are experiencing when otherwise they may find it difficult to find the right words.

Music therapy is cool. It rocks. It rolls. It soothes. It improves mental health in all types of mental illnesses. So, pick a song, start listening, and begin the healing process.

 


Chris Massman is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist. Chris' training includes Family Systems Theory along with numerous other theories. She believes therapy is an art and chooses the theory she feels will most benefit the individual sitting in front of her. Her specialty lies is in the field of Chemical Dependency and Addictions. Chris is currently seeing individuals, couples and families. Chris is a Clinical member of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists as well as the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists. Chris has two locations including Tarzana and Agoura Hills, CA.