Improve Your Mental Health with Music Therapy

Iris Hunter

According to the American Music Therapy Association, or AMTA, the idea of music therapy is at least as old as the writings of Aristotle and Plato. The 20th century discipline began after World War I and II when musicians from the community traveled around the country to veterans hospitals to play for those suffering from physical and emotional trauma due to the wars. The effects of music therapy led to the doctors and nurses requesting that the musicians continue to play for the veterans.

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Credit: American Music Therapy Association Facebook page

The idea of music and medicine has been around forever, Al Bumanis, a board certified music therapist and director of communications and conferences for the AMTA, said. It is still being used to facilitate therapy today.

What is Music Therapy?

According to the AMTA, “music therapy is the 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.”

In addition, music therapy interventions can be designed to promote wellness, enhance memory, improve communication, or promote physical rehabilitation, among other things.

Who can benefit from Music Therapy?

Are you wondering if you are a good candidate for music therapy? According to the AMTA, any individual with mental health needs or developmental and learning disabilities may benefit. Those with Alzheimer’s disease and other aging-related conditions; substance abuse problems, brain injuries, or physical disabilities are candidates as well. Acute and chronic pain—including mothers in labor—can benefit from music therapy, too.

Music therapy works well with older people, Bumanis said. As people age, strokes, dementia, and Parkinson’s can become part of their lives and music seems to help them, he said.

Healthy individuals can benefit from music therapy, as the treatment helps reduce stress, according to Bumanis.

What to Expect from a Music Therapy Session

Individuals are given an assessment before they start their sessions so that the therapist can determine what their likes and dislikes are as well as the emotional state of the client, Bumanis said. In addition, he also said that the sessions are very “client central.”

A therapy session will vary, depending on the client’s needs. The sessions are designed and the music is selected based on the actual treatment plan of the client, according to the AMTA.

“It is usually good to start where your client is,” Bumanis said. “It takes a lot to get to know the person you are working with.”

Nvate American Music Therapy Association music therapy music therapy interventions mental health Clinical music therapy

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“Clinical music therapy is something that is most often done actively with the client,” he continued. “It is based on their specific needs, goals and choices. Thus signing with, playing instruments with and other active music making is in most cases most effective as it involves the client in the present. But listening to music and talking about music is also used, based on client preference. Headphones can be used, but they are often times more isolating.”

An individual does not have to have any musical abilities to benefit from this type of therapy. Also, there is not one particular style of music that is more therapeutic than the others since all styles of music can play a part in effecting changes in one’s life.

“The goal isn’t to create great music it is to involve people,” Bumanis said.

In addition, he also said that one could use music to fall asleep rather than take a sleeping pill.

Even though there have been many individuals who have benefited from music therapy, there are still some who do not seem to benefit from this type of therapy.

“In my experience, 80 percent of the people benefited and 20 [percent] did not,” Bumanis said. In cases where music therapy did not work, music therapy may have not been the right treatment for that individual.

Whatever the case, music therapy is a choice for all types of people. “Music is a powerful force in people’s lives,” Bumanis said.

More About Music Therapy at the American Music Therapy Association

Visit the American Music Therapy Association website to learn more.

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