How Can Music Therapy Help Improve Mental Health?

Learn about music therapy, how it works, its benefits, and how to get a music therapy consultation here.

What Is Music Therapy?

Therapy can be defined as any form of treatment intended to treat or manage a health disorder. Music therapy is a modern alternative therapy involving music to help improve symptoms of certain health conditions in a clinical setting.

Music therapy does not require participants to have prior experience with instruments or be skilled in music, and it can be used in various treatment settings, including rehab centers, hospitals, senior care homes, military rehabilitation centers, and schools. Musical therapy has several evidence-based benefits, such as mood improvement, stress reduction, pain management, and blood pressure reduction.

Music Therapy

Questions About Treatment?

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Music Therapy

Questions About Treatment?

Our team is standing by to address your questions. Your call is confidential and no obligation is required.

What Kind of Music Is Used in Music Therapy?

Most music in music therapy is personalized to suit the preferences and tastes of the individual undergoing therapy. Thus, the type of music used in music psychotherapy may vary from soft and soothing to loud and energetic.
Studies featuring over fifty music therapists and over five hundred patients found that We Will Rock You by Queen, Three Little Birds by Bob Marley, Amazing Grace by various artists, Another Brick in the Wall by Pink Floyd, and You Are My Sunshine by various artists are the top five songs to effectively uplift and improve mood. Additionally, Bob Marley, Queen, Adele, Pink Floyd, and Eminem were the top five artists used in music therapy. 1

How Does Music Therapy Work?

Music therapy works centrally to calm individuals while helping to boost self-expression. Music psychotherapy can also elicit physiological changes in the human body, such as reduced blood pressure and heart rate. Depending on the directions of the music therapist and the abilities of the individual, there are a few ways music therapy could progress, including:
  • Listening to music
  • Moving or dancing to music
  • Creating music or developing lyrics 
  • Singing 
  • Playing an instrument and sharing music
  • Discussing lyrics to songs 

Music Therapy vs. Sound Therapy

Music is a mixture of sound waves at different frequencies ordered in a pleasant way. This ordered nature of sound helps differentiate music from noise. Sound therapy, as opposed to music therapy, involves using pure sounds or notes to elicit emotional benefits in individuals. These individual sounds or notes could be broken down and derived from music or created individually.
Music and sound therapy have similar goals, but music therapy is usually more expressive and interactive for the people involved. Although music psychotherapy is modern, strict certifications and training are what guide its practice, with most music therapists working in rehab facilities, hospitals, or private practices.

Different Types of Music Therapy

Music therapy has a wide scope, with several forms used to ensure patient benefits. These will be detailed below.

Analytical Music Therapy

Analytical music therapy involves a broad psychodynamic approach revolving around musical improvisation and verbal processing. The main goal of analytical music therapy is to interpret, analyze, and obtain a therapeutic change in the patient’s state of mind. Post-Freudian psychologists and psychoanalysts developed analytical music therapy.

Benenzon Music Therapy

Benenzon music therapy is built around discovering an individual’s musical sound identity, involving the process of making music and varying degrees of psychoanalysis. The production of music and sounds, when interpreted, can reflect the internal psychological state of a person.

Community Music Therapy

Community music therapy helps the emotional state of a group of individuals through coordinated music therapy. To be successful, each individual in the group has to be interested and participate actively.

Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy

Nordoff-Robbins music therapy, also referred to as creative music therapy, is conducted in close synchronization with a therapist—individuals play an instrument while the therapist plays along with another instrument.

Vocal Psychotherapy

Individuals may find and fine-tune an internal connection within their minds through vocal psychotherapy. It involves using therapeutic music, natural bodily sounds, breathing exercises, and spontaneous or nonspontaneous vocal exercises.

Cognitive Behavioral Music Therapy (CBMT)

Cognitive behavioral music therapy (CBMT) involves the simultaneous use of music and cognitive behavioral therapy during treatment. This process is highly structured and involves several activities, such as playing an instrument, listening to music, and rhythmic body movements, to help act as positive or negative reinforcements for certain behaviors.

The Bonny Method of Guided Imagery and Music (GIM)

This variant of musical therapy requires a high amount of expression and involves classical music. Individuals express how they feel, what they remember, and lingering thoughts as the music plays.

Uses of Music Therapy

The several forms of music therapy can be utilized as complementary care in the management and treatment of:

Physical Health Problems

Several forms of physical health problems, such as chronic pain, recurrent illness, and physical disabilities, can be alleviated using music psychotherapy. One study found that 68% of terminally ill cancer patients reported music therapy to be helpful and reported that the positive effects were strongly influenced by the duration and frequency of sessions, having children, partnership, experience with music, playing an instrument, and singing regularly. 2

Mental Health Problems

Varying forms of mental health conditions benefit from music therapy—for example, Alzheimer’s music therapy and variations of music therapy for depression. Music psychotherapy also benefits persistent stress, anxiety, and mood disorders.

Substance Abuse

Treatment of substance abuse and addiction requires a multimodal form of therapy. Along with pharmacotherapy, music psychotherapy is the perfect way to help curb and manage craving and withdrawal effects during and after detoxification.

What Are the Benefits of Music Therapy?

There are several benefits of music therapy, which are broken down into several groups, which will be discussed further below.

Emotional Benefits

Emotional benefits are commonly seen through mood improvements, stress, and anxiety reduction. Also, when done in groups, music therapy can help individuals open up and express themselves more and reduce feelings of loneliness.

Physical Benefits

Music can elicit several effects on the body when played correctly. Calming music therapy helps manage and reduce heart rates and blood pressure, leading to better sleep. Music therapy can also help manage chronic pain and aid physical therapy through dancing.

A meta-analysis reviewing ninety-seven studies found that music therapy significantly decreased pain, heart rate, systolic blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure, and respiration rate. 3

Spiritual Benefits

Music psychotherapy has a calming effect and can serve as a way to connect at a higher level, thereby boosting spiritual benefits.

Cognitive Benefits

Mental health music therapy sessions have been seen to improve memory and steer patients with substance use issues away from negative coping mechanisms.

Social Benefits

Music therapy programs can make social interactions easier for the people involved, especially as a group.

Using Music Therapy for Mental Health Improvement

Music has been an effective method for improving mental health for many years. Discover the history of music therapy and how it can improve mental health below.

When Did Music Therapy Start Being Used for Mental Health?

Music therapy for mental health improvement has been a common occurrence throughout history. Primitive humans used music to treat psychosomatic and psychiatric conditions. In addition, there are reports of music therapy in religion, such as King Saul being treated for depression by harp playing. Likewise, Pythagoras believed music had enough power to influence the body and mind through law and order, Plato believed music influenced personality, and Aristotle believed music could release accumulated emotions. 4

The first scientific use of music therapy activities came after World War II, leading to the coining of the term “music therapy” in 1950. Mental health music therapy since then has been used as a form of complementary support for orthodox medicine to aid the treatment and management of physical and mental health conditions.

How Can Music Therapy Help Improve Mental Health?

Music therapy helps improve mental health in a variety of ways, differing from person to person. Music therapy for mental health provides an avenue for stress relief, helping release bottled-up emotions, spur feelings of happiness, and boost moods while addressing triggers (e.g., music therapy for anxiety).

What Conditions Can Music Therapy Help?

Mental health conditions successfully managed using music therapy include:

  • Depression 
  • Mood disorders
  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Trauma
  • Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder
  • Autism

Is Music Therapy Outpatient or Inpatient?

One of the advantages of music therapy in mental health is versatility. Generally, music therapy can be held in outpatient treatment with routine check-ins or in an inpatient setting. Mental health music therapy can also be held for support groups. The music therapy plan depends on the preferences of the individuals involved.

About Music Therapist

Before attending music therapy, discover how to find a music therapist, what age groups are accepted, and when to contact a music therapist.

What to Look for in a Music Therapist

When searching for a music therapist, ensure they are experienced and licensed. Also, availability is key in ensuring both parties can easily make it to sessions. Finally, confirming if the music therapist is an expert in the preferred form of music therapy may be necessary.

Does a Music Therapist Work With Children and Adolescents?

Yes, music therapists can work with children and teenagers. Music therapy uses are abundant, generally milder and more engaging than most forms of therapy. Nonetheless, it can be fun for children and adolescents.

When Should You Contact a Music Therapist?

Music therapy is non-invasive and one of the mildest forms of treatment available. Music therapy is safe and useful for people of all ages and demographics, and clinicians can use it to maintain health without physical or mental health care conditions. You should contact a music therapist if you have a physical illness, chronic pain, substance use disorder, mental health condition, emotional issues, or experience with trauma.

Mental Health Recovery Using Music Therapy

It is essential to learn about insurance coverage and what to expect with music therapy. Being prepared is an important factor when searching for therapy, as it makes the process easier and ensures you get the most out of the experience.

Does Insurance Cover Music Therapy?

Depending on your insurance provider, they may cover music therapy sessions fully or to a certain extent. In some instances, you might have to pay out of pocket for a music therapist. However, some insurance providers have a list of therapists, including music therapists, they cover. Contact your health insurance provider for the most accurate information on your coverage and options.

What to Expect Before, During, and After the Music Therapy Session

The following offers a general description of what to expect in all stages of music therapy sessions:

  • Before: This stage involves the initial interactions with a music therapist. The music therapist takes time to undertake a detailed analysis to help ascertain the level and variant of treatment needed. This analysis would be based on several factors, such as emotional well-being, cognitive skills, history of trauma, physical health, and medical history. After a thorough analysis, the music therapist would go on to curate a treatment plan based on your goals and preferences.
  • During: This is where the therapy happens. Depending on your goals and preferences, your treatment plan could involve one or more forms of music therapy. Nevertheless, irrespective of the form of music therapy, it generally revolves around listening to music, moving or dancing to music, developing lyrics, discussing lyrics to songs, singing, playing an instrument, and sharing music.
  • After: This is the post-evaluation phase where you will be assessed based on your goals and preferences to ensure your music therapy plan meets your exact needs. If progress is made, your music therapist may decide to end treatment or provide further sessions. However, if no treatment progress is made, your music therapist must decide on the best course of action.

Contact a Professional Music Therapist Now at Essence Health and Wellness

Essence Health and Wellness is a treatment center with one goal—the happiness and health of every individual. We have a team of health care experts and licensed music therapists who are experienced in treating and managing mental health conditions. Our highly qualified medical professionals fine-tune each treatment plan to suit each individual’s needs and situation.

Music healing therapy has several benefits and remains one of the safest health care interventions for people of all ages. Please contact us at Essence Health and Wellness today for more information on music therapy programs.