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Music therapy

Music therapy is a form of expressive arts therapy that uses music as a medium to promote physical, mental, emotional, and social wellbeing. It can involve listening to music, playing musical instruments, singing, composing, improvising, or moving to music. Music therapists are trained professionals who use music interventions to address the specific needs and goals of their clients.

Music therapy can be used with individuals or groups of various ages and backgrounds, and in various settings such as hospitals, schools, nursing homes, rehabilitation centres, or community centres. It can help people cope with depression, stress, pain, trauma, illness, disability, or loss; enhance their cognitive, communication, motor, or social skills; express their feelings and thoughts; or simply enjoy the benefits of music.

History of music therapy

Music therapy is the use of music and musical elements to promote health and well-being in various settings and populations. Its history can be traced back to ancient times, when music was used as a form of healing and communication in different cultures and religions. For example, music was used to treat mental disorders in Ancient Greece, to enhance spiritual experiences in Ancient Egypt, and to regulate emotions and moods in ancient China.

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The modern development of music therapy began in the 20th century, when music was used to help soldiers cope with the trauma of war. In the 1940s, musicians started to visit hospitals and play for patients, and some doctors noticed the positive effects of music on their physical and psychological conditions. This led to the establishment of the first academic programs and professional associations for music therapy in the United States and Europe.

Since then, music therapy has expanded its scope and applications to various fields and disciplines, such as education, medicine, psychology, neuroscience, and social work. It has also diversified its methods and techniques, such as improvisation, composition, listening, singing, playing instruments, and movement. This therapy is now recognized as an evidence-based practice that can help people with various needs and goals, such as reducing stress and pain, improving mood and cognition, enhancing communication and social skills, and facilitating personal growth and development.

Key figures in music therapy

Some of the key figures in music therapy are:

  • Paul Nordoff and Clive Robbins: They developed the Nordoff-Robbins music therapy approach, which uses improvisational music making to foster creativity and self-expression in clients with various needs. They also founded the Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy Centre in London and established training programs around the world.
  • Helen Bonny: She created the Bonny Method of Guided Imagery and Music (GIM), which uses classical music to stimulate the imagination and facilitate psychological exploration and healing. She also founded the Institute for Music and Consciousness in Pennsylvania and trained many GIM practitioners.
  • Rolando Benenzon: He proposed the concept of musical sound identity, which refers to the external sounds that match one’s internal psychological state. He also developed the Benenzon music therapy model, which combines psychoanalytic principles with musical expression.
  • Kenneth Brescia: He is a leading scholar and researcher in music therapy, who has written extensively on various topics such as improvisation, assessment, case studies, methods, and ethics. He is also a former editor of the Journal of Music Therapy and the Nordic Journal of Music Therapy.
  • Barbara Wheeler: She is a prominent educator and author in music therapy, who has edited several influential books such as Music Therapy Handbook, Music Therapy Research (third edition), and Clinical Training Guide for the Student Music therapist. She is also a former president of the American Music Therapy Association and the World Federation of Music Therapy.
How music therapy works

Music therapists are trained professionals who use music interventions to assess the needs and goals of their clients and tailor their sessions accordingly. They may use active or passive methods, depending on the situation and preference of the client. Active methods involve making music with instruments, voice, or body percussion. Passive methods involve listening to recorded or live music. Music therapists may also use improvisation, songwriting, music analysis, music imagery, or music relaxation techniques.

Music therapy is based on scientific evidence and clinical practice. It is recognized as a health profession by many organizations and institutions around the world. It can be used in various settings, such as hospitals, schools, nursing homes, rehabilitation centres, hospices, prisons, and community centres. Furthermore, it can benefit people of all ages and backgrounds, regardless of their musical ability or preference.

A typical music therapy session

A typical music therapy session involves a music therapist and one or more clients who participate in various musical activities designed to address their specific goals and needs. They may use instruments, songs, improvisation, movement, listening, or other techniques to facilitate the therapeutic process. In addition, depending on the setting and the client’s preferences, the session may be individual or group-based, structured or flexible, active or receptive, or a combination of these.

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The music therapist assesses the client’s strengths and challenges, develops a treatment plan, implements interventions, evaluates outcomes, and documents progress. The duration and frequency of the sessions may vary depending on the client’s condition and availability. The main purpose of music therapy is to enhance the client’s well-being and quality of life through music.

Further reading

Here are some web links for further reading:

https://www.bamt.org/music-therapy/what-is-music-therapy: This link explains what music therapy is, how it works, who can benefit from it and where it is practised in the UK.
https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/music-therapy: This link provides an overview of music therapy, its benefits, types, methods and examples.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Music_therapy: This link gives a comprehensive introduction to music therapy, its history, approaches, applications and research.

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