Music Therapy: The Power of Music on the Body and Mind

The power of music is shown in this remarkable story from World War Two as told by Jack Leroy Tueller. Two weeks after D-Day he saved at least one life by playing a love song called Lili Marleen on his trumpet.

This case proves that music tears down the wall between enemies, and brings together strangers and communicates emotion through the common language of music. It’s this power that makes music an effective tool for therapy. 

What is Music Therapy?

Music therapy is the use of music to gain physical and emotional healing and wellness. A trained and certified music therapist can provide music therapy. Therapy sessions can involve listening to music, music-making, or both.
Research is beginning to reveal how music works to heal the body and mind.

* The rhythm and tone of music can excite you or relax you. Music therapy can help reduce your heart rate and blood pressure and increase your ability to think, learn, reason, and remember.

* Music-making is a healthy way of expressing yourself.


What is music therapy used for?

You can use music therapy to help your mental and physical health. It helps people express themselves, find new memories, and calm the body and mind through its rhythm, order, and predictability. Music therapy is sometimes combined with movement therapies, such as dance.

Music therapy:
 * May improve forgetfulness (dementia) by:
   • Improving your connection to others.
   • Helping the brain produce a calming substance (melatonin).
   • Improving how well you speak.
   • Improving long-term and medium-term memory.

*  May help children deal with necessary but painful procedures. Crying is often affected by music.

*  Is used to reduce the pain of cancer treatment.

Here is one example of Music Therapy in use in a hospital setting. I saw this CBS Sunday Morning segment just last Sunday.

It’s no secret that music can help you feel better. 
That’s why Musicians On Call brings music to the people who need it most – hospital patients.

Musicians On Call brings live and recorded music to the bedsides of patients in healthcare facilities. By delivering live, in-room performances to patients undergoing treatment or unable to leave their beds, we add a dose of joy to life in a healthcare facility. Since 1999, Musicians On Call volunteer musicians have performed for over 600,000 patients and their families.  

Benefits of Music Therapy

No musician or music lover denies the transformative power of music. Music is good for the spirit, however young or old you may be.

Did you know?  Studies have shown:

•  Music helped to slow the infants' heartbeats, calm their breathing, improve sucking behaviors important for feeding, aid sleep and promote quiet alertness.

• Music can be used as a tool in pain management and healing for children undergoing medical procedures and as a comfort for those who have suffered a traumatic experience. Music can be a powerful distraction, turning the patient's attention away from pain and promoting relaxation as well as to help ward off depression, promote movement and ease muscle tension.

• Listening to music for enjoyment is very beneficial but active participation is even better. Playing music may be an effective way to stimulate speech development and communication skills, express emotions, develop a sense of rhythm and provide opportunity for physical, cognitive and motor development whilst creating an environment for socialization and fun.
      The top 5 benefits of music therapy for kids with special needs, including autism, are:
  1. Empowering children
  2. Rewarding and motivating communication
  3. Re-directing and engaging children's energy
  4. Helping academic and speech goals
  5. Inspiring and leading to social connections.

The Benefits of Music Therapy
By Joe Pacheco
Autism is the fastest-growing developmental disorder in the United States, affecting 1 in every 68 kids born and continues to get more and more common. In fact, the prevalence of autism in young children has increased by 119.4 percent from 2000 to 2010. Although Autism is not curable, many believe treatments such as music therapy can help patients adapt and increase skill development. Continue Reading 

 Music can release a tripwire of powerful memories to the elderly. This is why music therapy is one of the most effective treatments for the elderly.

Music Therapy for seniors—Why is it a Good Option?

When you choose music therapy for seniors it provides some pronounced benefits which help them to lead a balanced life. Some of these ar listed below.

  • Music could be effectively used in developing personal goals in seniors. They could hone their musical skills and reach a level of personal fulfillment. This enhances personal affirmation and connectedness and promotes a feeling of comfort.
  • Old age is often related to stress and it is associated repercussions like hypertension and cardiac problems. Music therapy for seniors helps in stress reduction and purgation. It helps you to relax and build on social skills. When you make music along with your friends, the experience is fulfilling. It gives them a sense of achievement and makes them optimistic. This is a unique way of dealing with daily tensions and worries.
  • Senility is often a major problem seniors have to deal with. It bring along lack of focus and coordination which somewhat disjoints them from the social circuit. Often, music therapy can help in enhancing focus and alignment of feelings and impulses. It also helps in increasing concentration in an individual.
  • For those suffering from a reduced mental capacity, music therapy helps in activating the brain cells effectively. It also helps in rejuvenating memory cells, effectively combating conditions such as dementia. Music has the capability of stirring one’s emotions.
  • Old age is often associated with various kinds of pains and other physical manifestations of illnesses which can prove to be trying. Soothing music sessions can help build mental stamina and the capability to withstand such bodily banes with more confidence and will. It also helps in reducing the pain and hastens the recovery cycle in certain individuals.
  • Most importantly, music therapy for seniors is considered particularly effective in bringing in a sense of purpose to life. You are encouraged into feeling more positive and upbeat about your existence. Losing a sense of purpose could be common in seniors. Music rejuvenates them and encourages aspiring for new things.

Music Therapy Activities For Seniors with Memory Loss

No matter who your patients are, it is important to know what music they like and are familiar with. 
 When you hear this song, Sweet Caroline, you may be reminded of the sports event where you and everyone else was singing along and how good you felt.

*  Sing along  - My memory loss patients mostly are in that age demographic where they like 50's music. I ask them to sing with me on the popular songs of those times that were so good in their lives. A side benefit to singing is that it is a great breathing exercise, providing oxygen to the brain. Remember that your patients may not be able to sing for a long time, so you may need to vary your activities so as not to wear them out.

*  Memory exercises - I may play a little part of the melody and ask them to identify the title or sing some lyric or I may sing some lyric and stop to ask them to fill in the blank.

I may just play the whole song instrumentally and at the end ask anyone to tell us what they recall. Movie themes work good for this.

*  Rhythm Instruments- Adding some motion to the music is a great way to get the blood flowing. Almost all of my patients are wheel chair bound, but are able to move the arms. Put a shaker or bells in their hands and you'll be surprised how well they can keep time. Again, you'll need to vary the activities because this can also be very tiring. 

Music is More Enjoyed Live

Synchronised brainwaves: Why music is more enjoyable when it's live 
The brainwaves of music listeners synchronise better when they attend a concert, demonstrating that people enjoy music more when it’s live and experienced as part of a group, according to a new study.
—by Jon Chapple for IQ - Live Music Intelligence Read more

Want to get involved ? There is a Music Therapy Association here in Madison. You can contact them through their website: