Music Therapy

What is music therapy?

This therapy uses music to treat physical and mental health problems. Music therapy may involve singing, listening, moving, playing instruments, and other creative activities. Music therapists may also suggest ways to use music at home.

When is it used?

Music therapy may help adults:

  • Explore and express feelings
  • Improve how they feel about themselves
  • Make positive changes in moods and emotions
  • Be more aware of self and environment
  • Learn relaxation skills
  • Improve concentration, attention span, and memory
  • Develop skills in talking or moving
  • Manage pain
  • Recover from traumatic brain injury or a stroke

Music therapy can be very effective for older adults with dementia.

How does it work?

Music therapy may involve listening, singing, creating, moving and feeling. Working with a music therapist can help you relax and focus on changing thoughts, feelings and behaviors. The effect of music depends on pitch, volume, harmony, melody, and rhythm.

  • The pitch is produced by the number of vibrations, or frequency, of the sound. Fast vibrations, or high frequency, can make you nervous. Slow or low frequency vibrations have a calming effect.
  • Loud volume of music may feel comforting to you. Or loud volume can create stress. A soft volume may soothe, or it may irritate you if you prefer a high volume.
  • Harmony and melody may be used to relate to happy, sad, or angry feelings.
  • Rhythm affects the human heartbeat. Rhythm can make you excited, nervous, or deeply relaxed. As your body gets relaxed, your mind is able to concentrate more easily. Rhythm may help treat some speech and language problems. Rhythm also supports and encourages movement.

How do I find a therapist?

Music therapists may work with healthcare providers, psychologists, occupational and physical therapists, and speech/language pathologists. Ask questions and get referrals from people you know and trust. You could check with:

  • Your healthcare provider
  • Your clergyman, school teachers, or school counselors
  • Friends or family members who have been in therapy
  • Your health insurance company
  • Your employee assistance program (EAP) at work
  • Local mental health or human service agencies
  • Professional associations of psychologists, psychiatrists, or counselors

For more information, contact:

Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-06-09
Last reviewed: 2014-04-03
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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