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The Surprising Effects of Music Therapy & Mental Health 2023
Mental health has become a significant issue, and the recent pandemic felt across the globe has taken its toll on the population’s mental well-being. In the United States, it is thought that the country is facing a mental health crisis due to increased isolation and anxiety felt during the COVID outbreak.
This isolation created by the pandemic has led to more individuals seeking therapy to improve their mental well-being in all the various forms that it takes. Some treatments for depression and anxiety are orthodox and have a reputation for helping individuals recover from bouts of mental illness. At the same time, some treatments are more unusual and experimental but are still backed by science.
Not many people would place music and mental health together because music is primarily considered a passion. However, listening to music as part of music therapy can help treat various mental health issues, but how is this possible?
How Can Music Help With Mental Health?
Music is an integral part of different cultures’ identities around the world. Each country has developed its own music style over time which has become an important part of everyday life for both young and old.
It doesn’t matter what age or race a person is; the chances are that they will feel a connection with some sort of music during their lifetime. Music brings people together, especially if they have an appreciation for the same type of sound.
It also conveys emotions and can therefore affect our mood. For example, ambient music can calm the nerves, while relaxing music can help us sleep or feel less anxious.
Apart from music being of cultural importance to us and a form of entertainment enjoyed by the masses, it has other uses that may seem surprising. This includes music being used to positively affect the psychological well-being of those who utilize it as a form of therapy for mental health issues.
Scientific research has shown that music can influence physiological processes that enhance mental and physical well-being. In addition, increased brain stimulation and motor skills have also been attributed to music therapy.
Music therapy can also help those who are reluctant to communicate verbally about how they feel or are unable to communicate this way because of a restricting medical condition.
This therapy can help release pent-up negative emotions that cause depression and other mental health issues.
What is Music Therapy?
The difference between listening to music and music as therapy is that music therapy involves music therapists and a specially tailored musical program designed to suit an individual patient’s needs. The therapy is delivered in a professional one-to-one setting or can also be performed in small groups.
Music therapy aims to allow patients to express themselves emotionally by listening to music and releasing any emotions behind specific mental health problems such as anxiety.
Music therapy aims to help remove negative emotions and replace them with positive feelings, hoping that this form of treatment will eventually improve mental health. This can be achieved by listening to various types of music, such as relaxing classical music and playing musical instruments.
The choice of music is essential because the patient must be comfortable with the music being played. If an individual needs calming, then playing techno music during a music therapy session is counterproductive. Music-reduced anxiety is only achievable through certain types of music, such as meditative music.
Certain songs remind some patients of either positive or negative life events. Some music can take individuals back to their childhood or remind them of happier times. These are both examples of the psychological effects of music on the brain.
Types of Music Therapy
There are various types of music therapy, and incorporating music that will meet the needs of each patient is a challenge that faces each music therapist. Therapy choices are highly dependent on the individual’s musical tastes and mental health state.
Music therapy that involves the writing of song lyrics is effective for mood disorders such as seasonal affective disorder, mood swings, and depression. This is because the patient is allowed to express themselves and write about their innermost thoughts and feelings. It can be as effective as talking therapy for revealing what is going on in a patient’s mind.
Lyric writing also allows patients to be creative while at the same time being therapeutic. It stimulates the brain and occupies the mind, putting negative thoughts on the back burner. Lyrics can be written for pre-existing pieces of music that may have a sentimental meaning for each patient.
Music For Dementia
Since music therapy engages our senses, it has become part of the treatment for those with dementia. But unfortunately, sufferers of dementia have their communication channels interrupted by this disease and therefore cannot express themselves or interact with their loved ones on a normal conversational level.
Playing music to people living with dementia improves their communication skills and concentration. Speech and non-verbal communication are also enhanced by listening to music or watching live performances. Even being encouraged to play an instrument helps improve the mood of people with dementia.
Paul Nordoff and Clive Robbins worked together to create music therapy aimed more at children who had autism and other disorders of the mind. Their hands-on approach, which encourages patients to play instruments, has also helped dementia patients.
Community Music Therapy
Community music therapy can help bring together sections of the community that may feel isolated because they suffer from mental health issues. It works by incorporating music in a group setting that encourages communication and group bonding. This type of group involvement positively affects mental health and encourages patients to interact with each other.
Diane Austin developed vocal psychotherapy, and the vocals are those that accompany music rather than using only the spoken word. Melodic vocals are used to create a dialogue between the patient and therapist. Again, vocalization here is used to express emotions, ease depression, and help patients grow in confidence.
When to Use Music to Help With Mental Health
Mental health and music are connected. Listening to music stimulates the brain and releases hormones that can make us feel more relaxed and happier within ourselves. Therefore music therapy should be used if other treatments have failed or if patients are apprehensive about one-on-one verbal therapy sessions.
Instead, these patients can participate in community music therapy which is especially useful and enjoyable for children as music connects people.
Ways to Use Music for Mental Health
Music can be used to improve mental health in certain ways. Firstly, It can help boost creativity because music creates emotions within the listener.
Creating your own music during a therapy session can allow you to express yourself freely and release any negative emotions that may occupy your mind. This is especially useful for those who may find that their mental health issues make it hard for them to verbalize negative or painful emotions.
Music can help relax the mind and body, but it is also thought that classical music can do the opposite and help individuals focus.
Another way to use music to improve mental health is by creating community therapy sessions where patients with similar mental health problems can get together and bond. This makes mental health sufferers realize they are not alone and can help each other recover.
Therapy for mental health is important and can prevent mental health conditions from becoming severe. Whether you attend therapy sessions with or without insurance, getting the right treatment is vital.
If you choose music therapy, you have to explore music’s psychology and ask how music affects mental health. Then you will discover that music inspires, motivates, and relaxes the mind; it also aids the release of dopamine, making us feel happy. Music can also stimulate memory in those with dementia.
Music therapy crosses cultures, races, and ages. If you are an adolescent or elderly, it is worth trying music therapy for various mental health issues. Music can help lift the mood and bring individuals out of their shells. In addition, good mental health encourages better physical health, which is why music therapy is well worth trying if you need to improve your mental state.
+ 2 sources
Health Canal avoids using tertiary references. We have strict sourcing guidelines and rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic researches from medical associations and institutions. To ensure the accuracy of articles in Health Canal, you can read more about the editorial process here
- Rebecchini, L. (2021). Music, mental health, and immunity. Brain, Behavior, & Immunity – Health, [online] 18, p.100374. doi:10.1016/j.bbih.2021.100374.
- Dementia UK. (2022). Music and dementia. [online] Available at: https://www.dementiauk.org/get-support/living-with-dementia/music/#affect.