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What is Music Therapy?

A person sits at a piano with their hands pressing down on the keys to exemplify "what is music therapy".

Music has a tremendous effect on our emotions and may be a useful form of therapy and self-expression. Music therapy—a therapeutic technique that uses the qualities of music to address emotional, cognitive, and social needs—is widely recognized to have positive effects on both mental and physical health. In this article, we’ll explore the history and benefits of music therapy, understand what a typical session looks like, and discover different ways to get started today.

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What is music therapy?

Music therapy is a broad, scientifically proven practice that uses music to address people's social, emotional, cognitive, and physical needs. It’s led by certified music therapists who employ musical elements such as rhythm, melody, and harmony to help patients achieve their therapeutic goals. Unlike traditional music education, the purpose of music therapy is to use music as a tool for rehabilitation and personal development rather than to transfer musical knowledge.

Music allows clients to communicate and process emotions that could be difficult to convey verbally.

Where did it come from?

Music therapy originated in ancient civilizations such as Egypt, Greece, and China where music was appreciated for its restorative effects. After World Wars I and II, musicians volunteered to play in hospitals for injured veterans shaping the modern music therapy we know today. Realizing the benefits of this approach, healthcare practitioners began incorporating music into therapeutic settings, which eventually led to the establishment of music therapy as an independent field.

A child is sitting on a couch and strumming a wooden ukulele getting the benefits of music therapy

What are the benefits of music therapy?

Music therapy has numerous benefits for people of all ages and backgrounds, including:

  • Stress reduction. Music has the ability to soothe people and lower stress hormone levels, which can help people cope with tension and worry.

  • Emotional release. Music allows clients to communicate and process emotions that could be difficult to convey verbally.

  • Increased cognitive abilities. Listening to music can increase cognitive abilities such as memory, attention, and problem-solving skills, especially in those with neurological impairments.

  • Pain management. Music can reduce pain and suffering in patients during operations or as part of their rehabilitation treatment plan.

  • Improved communication. Music therapy encourages social engagement and communication, which assists people in developing stronger bonds and social skills.

Where does it take place?

Music therapy can be applied in a variety of physical and virtual settings. At MIYA Creative Care, we offer in-person sessions at hospitals, nursing homes, schools, mental health centers, long-term care homes, rehabilitation facilities, and more.

The benefits of music therapy can also be accessed virtually. Our online offering integrates traditional psychotherapy with music and art to foster personal growth and emotional healing.

An elderly couple wearing black and white sit on a couch. The man is holding a black guitar in his hands as his wife is holding down a note. He is looking at her with affection as they get the benefits of music therapy.

What does a session look like?

A music therapy session is a carefully planned time between a certified music therapist and a client, with the purpose of addressing the therapeutic goals and promoting well-being through the use of musical experiences. The specifics of a music therapy session will vary depending on the client’s needs, the therapist’s approach, and the location of the therapy session. A typical structure for a music therapy would look something like this:

  1. Setting the Environment: The music therapist establishes a safe and comfortable setting. This includes introducing the client to the space, receiving informed consent from the client for the music therapy session, and preparing the client for the session by warming up with a familiar song.

  2. Warm-up: The session moves to warm up with the possible use of rhythmic exercises, vocal warm-ups, and/or instrument improvisation.

  3. Main Interventions: The session's core consists of the client participating in various musical activities that correspond with the client's goals and objectives. Improvisation, songwriting, playing pre-existing music, movement to music, listening exercises, and other activities could be included. As tools for expression and investigation, the therapist may employ instruments such as drums, keyboards, guitars, or even the client's voice. If a client is focused on strengthening motor abilities, the therapist may use rhythm-based activities that promote coordination. If emotional expression is the goal, the therapist may utilize music to assist the client in exploring and processing emotions.

  4. Reflection and Processing: The therapist encourages the client to reflect on their experiences and feelings throughout the session. This can be accomplished through verbal exchanges, song lyrics, or even instrumental improvisations. The therapist assists the client in connecting their musical experiences to their emotional well-being.

  5. Closure: A recap and a final reflection of the music therapy session is provided and discussed with the client. A possible final closing song may be used to provide an ending to the session.

How can I get started with music therapy today?

Connecting with a certified music therapist is essential when embarking on your music therapy journey. MIYA Creative Care is dedicated to supporting you on your road to wellness through music. She is a certified music therapist with years of experience who collaborates with an amazing team of certified music therapists and other creative arts therapists to deliver the best possible care. Connect with us today to learn more about the therapeutic advantages of music.

Written by Steffi Ching.


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