Music in Therapy

Music in Therapy

The current definition of music therapy, as applied in the United States, is ‘the prescribed use of music by a qualified person to effect positive change in psychological, physical, cognitive, or social functioning of individuals with health or educational problems.’
Music is easily one of the greatest discoveries made by humans, turning sounds of nature into a concept of music perfectly blended with sounds pleasing to the ear and rhythms that coincide with the rhythmic patterns of our heart.
Music is said to possess healing properties which makes it qualified to be used as a form of therapy. The earliest application of music in therapy was seen when saints, who were aware of its curative powers, used it to heal maladies.

“Indian music therapy is an integration of ancient healing practices and musical traditions coupled with modifications derived from current clinical practices.”

The Hindu (2012)

Music therapy can be applied in a wide variety of settings and from diverse perspectives. Categorizing major approaches is slightly difficult. Bruscia (1998) defined six general areas in which music therapists practice:

· ● DIDACTIC – emphasizing on obtaining skills necessary for functional independent living
· ● MEDICAL – focusing on restoration or maintenance of health
· ● HEALING – use of universal energy forms inherent in music for a change
· ● PSYCHOTHERAPEUTIC – leading clients with experiences of meaning and fulfillment
· ● RECREATIONAL – music for personal enjoyment
· ● ECOLOGICAL – promoting health in the community, family, and workplace.

In some of these, the music-making process is an active agent of change, i.e., the therapeutic experience can be carried out without indulging in a verbal discussion. Whereas in many others, verbal exchanges can lead to insightful experiences, i.e, the encounter with music facilitates the entry of new ideas, which could have previously been hidden or disguised within a person.

There are many ways in which music therapists manipulate music in order to serve the purpose of healing. Some therapies encourage clients to sing loudly and openly without holding themselves back, or play an instrument of their choice. Others prompt the client to write their own lyrics or maybe create a tune or a song. Several also encourage acknowledging the emotions one experiences before and after listening to a particular piece of music. But the choice of the process depends upon the observations of the client made by the therapist.

Experiencing music in any form has proved to be a blessing for a person’s mental and physical health. Some of the common benefits are:
· ● Reduced stress
· ● Lessening anxiety
· ● Improving memory
· ● Easing pain or discomfort
· ● Relaxation of mind
· ● Improving cognition
· ● Catharsis or emotional venting
Music therapy has been claimed to work well for children with developmental disorders including dyslexia, autism, and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and adults with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), anxiety disorders, etc.

You might have heard that some ragas in Indian music evoke certain emotions. This is true – there are patterns of notes in certain ragas that have the power of transforming a person’s mood. The frequency of the notes resonates with our brain waves thus uplifting our mood or changing our thought repository. That is why when listening to some ragas, one finds themselves feeling happy while listening to some other ragas pave the way for negative emotions such as anger or fear. For instance, the infamous raga Kalyani or Raag Yaman is a vibrant and grand raga that encapsulates the emotions or rasas of love and tranquility. There is a close relationship between the rasas (emotions) and ragas (scales of music) – the rasa theory explains this very well.

Music therapy should be carried out only by professionals who have specialized in this field. Improper knowledge can be dangerous in a clinical setup hence careful research as well as suitable training is a must.

– Neha Kailash

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