You may notice that your favorite song can have a soothing effect after a bad day at work or school. Your worries drift away, your muscles relax, the tension eases – it’s evidence that music can have a therapeutic impact on a human body, mentally and physically.
However, there’s a bit more to the practice of music therapy than simply turning on a well-loved record.
Music therapy uses music-based interventions, or moments of change, to address a person’s cognitive, social, emotional, psychological, physical, physiological, and spiritual needs. Starting as far back as the early 1800s, music therapy has been growing from a niche treatment into the formal clinical profession as it is known today. Music therapy courses are offered at universities across the country, including the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).
Music therapy is used in cognitive and neurological development. Perhaps the most famous music therapy client is former US Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. In 2011, Giffords sustained a brain injury when she was shot at a congressional event in Tucson, AZ. The bullet damaged the left side of her brain – the language center. Despite this, Giffords’ music therapist used melody and rhythm to force Giffords’ brain to create a detour through the intact right side of her brain, where music is processed.
Music therapy can also normalize the hospital environment, helping clients to manage anxiety, stress, and pain. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics in July 2013 on pediatric patients aged 3 to 11, researchers from the University of Alberta found that patients who listened to relaxing music while getting an IV inserted reported significantly less pain, and some demonstrated significantly less distress, compared with patients who did not listen to music. Additionally, in the music-listening group, more than two-thirds of the health-care providers reported that the IVs were very easy to administer, compared with 38 percent of providers treating the group that did not listen to music.
Music therapy also provides an outlet for emotional expression and support. Jaelyn Glaz was just days away from her ninth birthday when she died following a long battle with cancer in 2018. Music therapists from UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital came up with a gift for her grieving family to help them remember Jaelyn’s love for music and dancing. Using a recording of her heartbeat, they collaborated with Jaelyn’s family to create a new song, “Jaelyn’s Heartbeat Song,” to the tune of Walk The Moon’s “Shut Up And Dance,” and offered the Glaz family something to help them get through the tough times.
If you’re wondering if music therapy is right for you, contact a medical professional licensed by one of the Department of Consumer Affairs’ healing arts boards. You can check the license of a medical professional at www.search.dca.ca.gov.