A guide to: Music therapy

Laura Dean-Osgood

Although still controversial, studies increasingly suggest that music therapy can affect positive changes. Here's everything you need to know about this experimental therapy. 

What is it?

Music Therapy

Music therapy is a type of psychological therapy that’s used with people of all ages, to help with communication and emotional wellbeing.

Music therapy doesn’t aim to teach singing or learning an instrument, instead it is used as tool for communication and developing a relationship between the client and the therapist.

It is a particularly useful therapy for people who have problems with speaking or communicating. A music therapist will encourage interaction using music to help achieve a therapeutic goal that’s specific to that person’s needs.

 

Who uses it?

A wide range of people in a number of health care settings use music therapy. It might be used to engage with pre-school age children, people with learning difficulties, people with disabilities, behavioural issues, people with autism or dementia and in end-of-life care.

Parents seeking music therapy for their child can request a referral at the child’s school or to a doctor or social worker. It’s also possible to make self-referrals.

 

What does it involve?

Music therapy
Image via Nazareth College

Music therapy sessions often involve client-led activity, in which the therapist improvises playing an instrument or singing in response to the client’s sounds or mood.

The client is then encouraged to respond, thus making music. This can create a musical interaction and in doing so fosters feelings of togetherness. It can help build key communication skills such as awareness, choice making.

 

Is it effective?

A 2014 study of the effectiveness of music therapy showed that it can have some very positive effects.

Improvements are seen in symptoms of depression, sleep quality, social functioning and even in the gait of people with Parkinson’s.

 

What are the pros?

Music Therapy

This kind of therapy is a helpful communication tool for people who have problems doing so unaided.

It can also help people who struggle to express their emotions. It can also help with creativity, social interaction and feelings of wellbeing.

 

Any cons?

By nature, music therapy is a gentle therapy with no side effects.