Updated: Jan 2
Do you know what is Music Therapy? Music therapy is a form of psychotherapy that uses music and rhythm to help with emotional and mental wellbeing. It's a scientifically-proven treatment that uses music, sound, or song in order to positively impact the body, emotions, or mind. Music is known for improving moods through release of endorphins and inducing relaxation.
So how did this unique field of therapeutic practice become popular? In the past few years an increasing number of people have been looking for ways to alleviate their depressive symptoms by utilizing this type of therapy. Surprisingly, more people than ever are willing to try it out.
Accepting music therapy as a means of mental health treatment
For a long time music therapy was lost in the shadows of mainstream healthcare, but nowadays it's making a comeback. This is largely due to rising smartphone usage and the ability for people to share their stories, experiences, and results with each other online.
This trend has given rise to a growing social and online community of people who use music therapy. It works much like other therapies such as CBT or talking therapy, but the main difference is that music therapy is not only about replacing old methods of treatment for serious disorders. It's also about giving recovering individuals a way to embrace their humanity again through personal expression and personal choice.
How music therapy affects the brain?
In fact, groups such as the American Psychiatric Association have started to recognize music therapy as a valuable alternative modality that can effectively assist people in managing their symptoms of anxiety or depression. Here are examples of how music affects the different parts of our brain:
The emotional center (limbic system) – Feelings of sadness or anger can intensify or become more complex when listening to sad or angry songs.
The hypothalamus – This center regulates a person's temperature, hunger and thirst thresholds, sleep cycle, and circadian rhythms. It also controls the endocrine system and releases hormones into the bloodstream. It is responsible for regulating heart rate, arterial pressure and respiration.
The cerebellum – This little brain is part of our motor cortex that helps us plan physical movements. Research shows that playing music can significantly increase a person's cognitive function, especially in areas associated with it, such as your rhythm, timing, memory and more.
The amygdala – This is our emotional regulator. It processes emotions by coding them through social context and in response to our inner experiences (memories). It is crucial for processing fear, detecting threats and encoding memories related to these experiences.
The hippocampus – This center is responsible for memory and learning. It takes information from our senses, organizes it and stores it as long-term memories.
How does music therapy help depression?
Music therapy has been proven to help reduce certain symptoms of depression such as stress, insomnia and pain. The connection between music and the brain is undeniable, which helps explain why so many people are turning to it for treatment of their mental conditions; especially when other conventional methods fail. It can also assist in helping an individual learn how to manage their emotions more effectively, which is crucial for successful recovery from depression and other types of anxiety disorders.
How is music therapy beneficial?
Here are five reasons why music therapy can be your new, beat-inducing best friend:
1. Music therapy helps relieve symptoms of depression.
This type of therapy focuses on helping an individual learn how to master the ability to control their thoughts and emotions. The ultimate goal is for the patient to be able to express themselves, develop healthy self-esteem and improve quality of sleep.
2. Music therapy alleviates pain and improves general health.
It's been proven that playing music can decrease anxiety and depression, which may be due to its effect on the vagus nerve, a pathway that is associated with lower blood pressure (i.e.: in lessening stress). This benefit also extends to individuals who experience pain or other types of illness.
3. Music therapy is a safe and beneficial treatment for parents and children.
Children who experience anxiety or depression have often been found to be hyperactive, impulsive or socially withdrawn. Music therapy can help empower them to overcome these negative behaviors by helping them focus on the positive aspects of their lives.
4. Music therapy encourages individuals to be more active with their wellbeing.
Music has a strong ability to encourage individuals to engage more with their environment, opening up new possibilities for creativity and exploration. It's also known for its calming influence, which can reduce stress in general, which can be helpful for those who suffer from chronic pain or other health conditions.
Also Read: Expressive Art Therapies in Mental Health
5. Music therapy can help improve memory, cognition and brain functions.
Whether you're playing a musical instrument, listening to your favorite playlist or creating a song of your own, you're challenging yourself to think differently and explore new perspectives. This can result in positive brain changes that help improve memory, cognitive function and social connections.
How does music therapy works?
Music Therapy activates motor, cognitive and speech centers in the brain which helps to improve the memory and overall brain functioning. It also helps to reduce stress, anxiety and depression.
Music therapy is not just a trend; it's here to stay because this method is proven to work for so many people from all walks of life. It's also a good idea to learn how to use it as well. It can help you feel better physically and mentally, so make sure you know how to incorporate it into your life!
Who can benefit from music therapy?
Music therapy has positive effects for many different populations. The most commonly treated groups are children, the elderly and people who have a mental illness. Despite its popularity, there are still some people who feel it's not quite mainstream enough to be considered a real therapeutic method. However, professional organizations such as the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA) continue to lobby for music therapy to be formally recognized by the government as a valuable form of treatment. With this support, it won't be long before music becomes an option that's available to everyone.
It may seem hard to believe at first but anyone can benefit from music therapy. There are many ways that music can be helpful in your day-to-day life, whether you're trying to manage depression, anxiety or stress.
Is music therapy reliable?
Now that we know how music affects our brain, why not treat yourself or someone you care about to some soothing sounds in the comfort of your own home? Or maybe you'd prefer a place where you can truly relax, unwind and enjoy a more relaxing atmosphere. Either way, make sure you give yourself or someone else the gift of music therapy in order to help ease their suffering in whatever form that may be.
The next time you feel stressed, anxious or depressed, don't be afraid to take a second to reflect on what is taking place inside of your mind and your life. Is it time for a change? Search for new hobbies and other activities that require you to challenge yourself in new ways. By doing so, it will help you not only manage these negative emotions but also help you change the way that you think and act towards others.
If music moves you (pun intended), go ahead and try it out! If not, why not? There are so many methods of therapy out there to explore such as art therapy, movement therapy or even drama therapy.