Counselor/Mental Health Therapist (Naperville)
For me, one of the greatest feelings is when I am driving, having an open stretch of road ahead of me. It is a beautiful day, and as I enjoy the warm sun shining down on me, and the feeling of freedom, as the wind blows through my hair. There is still one more thing to this sense of delight: my favorite music!
In my personal life, I love finding music that brings me comfort. Have you ever listened to a song and identified with it so strongly, as if it was the song was written from your experience and your perspective? As if was written just FOR YOU? I have also found music to help me look at things in a total new light and perspective. Naturally, I was very excited when I was assigned in graduate school to do a research paper on music therapy. Through my personal and professional experience and through my research, I discovered music therapy to be one of the most beneficial forms of therapy. It is a hidden gem, truly.
What is Music Therapy?
Music therapy is the interaction between a therapist, a client, and the use of music. A little more in depth: music therapy is used within a therapeutic relationship to address physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs of the individual(s). The therapist that is facilitating the music therapy session will assess the strengths and needs of each client. Then, the therapist provides the indicated treatment including creating, singing, moving to, and/or listening to music.
In addition, music therapy also provides avenues for communication that can be helpful to those who find it difficult to express themselves in words. Through my research in music therapy, I have found music to support its effectiveness in many areas such as: overall physical rehabilitation and facilitating movement, increasing people's motivation to become engaged in their treatment, providing emotional support for clients and their families, and providing an outlet for expression of feelings. I have found it to also help clients let their guard down and feel more of a connection.
Who can benefit from music therapy?
Children, adolescents, adults, and the elderly with mental health needs, developmental and learning disabilities, Alzheimer's disease and other aging related conditions, substance abuse problems, brain injuries, physical disabilities, and acute and chronic pain, including mothers in labor. Music therapy is especially therapeutic for individuals who struggle with their communication skills on how to explain how they feel, what they need, etc. To sum it up music therapy is beneficial to anyone that is having a hard time, difficult situation, life transition, etc. Individuals can use music for stress reduction via active music making, such as playing the guitar or singing, as well as passive listening for relaxation. Pretty much anyone who is looking to promote, maintain, and restore mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health.
Would I only be listening to “certain types” of music?
Not at all! Do not become overwhelmed thinking you will need to write and create your OWN music. I find for my clients, the best approach to becoming introduced to the concept of music therapy is simply having the clients jot down some of their favorite songs. I will usually ask them to listen to a song or two and then to journal about it. How did the client feel listening to the songs- describe those emotions/feelings? What did the client identify with in the song, etc.? Types of music again can range. I usually like to introduce my clients to music therapy with the song “Imagine” by John Lennon.
What are some misconceptions about music therapy?
That the client has to have some particular music ability to benefit from music therapy -- they do not. Another is that there is one particular style of music that is more therapeutic than all the rest -- this is not the case. All styles of music can be useful in effecting change in a client’s life. The individual's preferences, circumstances and need for treatment, and the client’s goals help to determine the types of music that will be used.
Conclusion: Please don’t stop the music!
With the budget of Illinois still struggling, more and more schools are cutting back or completely eliminating music and art programs. We cannot let music be extinguished. Music has been proven to be a very effective treatment approach. There are so many benefits to music. From physical effects such as lowering your blood pressure to psychological effects such as lowering anxiety and panic. To communication skills in which music allows an individual to express them self.
The next time you are driving, walking, or cleaning- please put in your earbuds or turn the radio up. Put on a song that you like and let the sunshine warm you and the wind blow through your hair and may you experience the peaceful and positive benefits of music therapy!