Music therapy is used with individuals of all ages and with a variety of conditions, including: psychiatric disorders, medical problems, physical handicaps, sensory impairments, developmental disabilities, substance abuse, communication disorders, interpersonal problems, and aging. It is also used to: improve learning, build self-esteem, reduce stress, support physical exercise, and facilitate a host of other health-related activities.
Music has been shown to affect portions of the brain. Part of this therapy is the ability of music to affect emotions and social interactions. Research by Nayak et al showed that music therapy is associated with a decrease in depression, improved mood, and a reduction in state anxiet. Both descriptive and experimental studies have documented effects of music on quality of life, involvement with the environment, expression of feelings, awareness and responsiveness, positive associations, and socialization .
Additionally, Nayak et al. found that music therapy had a positive effect on social and behavioral outcomes and showed some encouraging trends with respect to mood.Although positive changes have been associated with music therapy, some considerations must be taken into account. While scientists have determined that a variety of physiological and psychological changes occur when listening to music, broad conclusions cannot yet be made concerning the relationship and the direction of the relationship between music and emotion. Additionally, there may be mediating factors which affect the success of music therapy.
More recent research suggests that music can increase patient’s motivation and positive emotions. Current research also suggests that when music therapy is used in conjunction with traditional therapy it improves success rates significantly. It is hypothesized that music therapy helps stroke victims recover faster and with more success by increasing the patient’s positive emotions and motivation, allowing them to be more successful and driven to participate in traditional therapies.
"Music and song embrace can sustain us throughout our journey in life, present in our celebrations, marking passages and milestones, strengthening us with courage when we are fearful and despairing. Music helps to answer questions of who we are, what we stand for and value, comforting us individually and bringing us together collectively.
Music helps us to wordlessly understand ourselves and others, to console when there are no words and to create ways to communicate when through disability or other barriers, language alone is not possible. And although you may be “at a loss for words”, not know what to say or when “words just can’t express” your true feelings, music is always there to communicate the inexpressible and to free the mind from the boundaries of speech and ordinary thought to expand to an alternate place of emotion, rhythm and imagery. Words may desert us, but music is always present – like a heartbeat, linking us to our world and providing a pathway back “home” ."
Music therapy is an interpersonal process in which the therapist uses music and all of its facets—physical, emotional, mental, social, aesthetic, and spiritual—to help clients to improve or maintain their health. In some instances, the client's needs are addressed directly through music; in others they are addressed through the relationships that develop between the client and therapist.
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.
The idea of music as a healing influence which could affect health and behavior is as least as old as the writings of Aristotle and Plato. The 20th century discipline began after World War I and World War II when community musicians of all types, both amateur and professional, went to Veterans hospitals around the country to play for the thousands of veterans suffering both physical and emotional trauma from the wars. The patients' notable physical and emotional responses to music led the doctors and nurses to request the hiring of musicians by the hospitals. It was soon evident that the hospital musicians needed some prior training before entering the facility and so the demand grew for a college curriculum.
The first music therapy degree program in the world, founded at Michigan State University in 1944, celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1994. The American Music Therapy Association was founded in 1998 as a union of the National Association for Music Therapy and the American Association for Music therapy.
Research has shown the ability of music therapy to increase positive social interactions, positive emotions, and motivation in stroke patients. Wheeler et al. found that group music therapy sessions increased the ease at which stroke patients responded to social interaction and increased positive attitude reports from patient families, while individual sessions helped to motivate patients for treatment. Another study examined the effect of music therapy on mood of stroke patients and found similar results that showed decreased anxiety, fatigue, and hostile mood states.
The future of music therapy is promising because state of the art music therapy research in physical rehabilitation, Alzheimer's disease, and psychoneuroimmunology is documenting the effectiveness of music therapy in terms that are important in the context of a biological medical model.
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