Whether you’re recovering from a physical injury or undergoing intensive care for a debilitating illness, music may help ease your recovery. For individuals in a wide range of situations, music therapy is an increasingly widespread form of treatment. It is a clinical, evidence-based therapeutic method used increasingly by hospitals as well as specialized care clinics, within many departments of complementary medicine. The field of music therapy, as it currently exists, dates back to the mid-20th century. At that time, music was first used systematically in hospitals to assist veterans in their recovery after the First and Second World Wars. During the latter half of the 20th century, the method became more standardized and increasingly recognized by public and private institutions. Many medical schools and music schools now offer accredited programs in music therapy and professional associations regulate training to provide accreditation to music therapists around the world.
Music therapy can be applied to a wide range of conditions and illnesses, including both physical ailments and mental health issues. Music therapists may work in general medical hospitals, psychiatric hospitals, rehabilitative centers, drug and alcohol addiction recovery centers, hospice programs, nursing homes, schools, and private practices. While music therapy has been applied to numerous specific situations, some of the most common applications include acute or chronic pain conditions, developmental disorders, Alzheimer’s disease, substance abuse recovery, pregnancy and postpartum issues, and disorders or injuries affecting the neurological system. Depending on the particular program and the health conditions that the therapy is meant to treat, a program may include making or listening to music. For example, some programs teach students to play instruments or write songs while others encourage listening to certain types of music regularly; sometimes in tandem with relaxation techniques.
For individuals recovering from addiction, music therapy has an increasingly central role in many recovery programs. Several clinical trials and research papers have identified a clear relationship between music therapy and easier recovery from alcohol or drug addiction. Music therapy may benefit individuals in recovery by lowering stress levels and blood pressure, improving communication abilities, maximizing the immune system, minimizing feelings of loneliness or depression, offering emotional release, and relieving boredom. Alongside music therapy, many recovery programs offer instruction in meditation and other activities to further deepen the beneficial effects of the music therapy. Specifically, music therapy can help recovering addicts to sharpen their mental clarity, improve their creativity, and avoid common “triggers” for relapse, such as boredom or depression.
- History of Music Therapy – The American Music Therapy Association outlines the history of using music therapeutically.
- Careers in Music Therapy – Berklee College of Music offers information on what music therapists do and how to become one.
- Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Music Therapy and Recovery – The American Cancer Society offers information about music therapy for cancer patients.
- What Music Therapy Involves – Cancer Research UK, a registered UK charity, offers information on what to expect in a music therapy session.
- Music Therapy Week – The British Association for Music Therapy offers a week of music therapy-themed events for practitioners and the public.
- Music Therapy for People with Disabilities – An article details how music therapy can assist with various disabilities.
- Exploring the Role of Music in Cardiac Rehabilitation and Recovery – An academic article explores how music may help those recovering from cardiac events.
- Music Therapy: An Overview – The NYU Steinhardt Department of Music and Performing Arts gives an overview of music therapy and its applications.
- Music Therapy in Multiple Sclerosis – This page discusses how music therapy might be able to help those suffering from Multiple Sclerosis.
- Music Therapy Helps People with Disabilities – This article talks about how music therapy can help stroke victims and may even be able to help restore speech.