What is Music Therapy?

Music therapy involves the application of clinical and empirically supported musical interventions to achieve personalised objectives within a therapeutic partnership, facilitated by a certified professional who has completed an accredited music therapy program. Through the medium of music, these therapists evaluate emotional wellness, physical vitality, social integration, communication aptitude, and cognitive capabilities.

They design music sessions for individuals and groups, based on client needs using music improvisation, receptive music listening, songwriting, lyric discussion, music and imagery, music performance, and learning through music. Music Therapists also participate in interdisciplinary treatment planning, ongoing evaluation, and follow-up.

Music therapy is used for different issues from stress relief to mental, emotional, and behavioural challenges. Music therapy has been shown to help treat depression and anxiety and is often used to help elderly patients deal with memory loss associated with diseases such as Dementia. The healing benefits of Music Therapy can be enjoyed by anyone, at any age. The process of making and listening to music can provide a channel for communication and expression that may go beyond what is easily expressed in words.

(Music Therapy works on several different levels in several different ways.) Music therapy can help different people in various ways. Music, especially pieces with a strong rhythmic element can affect our heart rate and breathing, and promote the release of endorphins (or) also known as natural painkillers.

Music Therapy can also reduce muscle tension, and promote relaxation. Music can help release memories or negative feelings that may have been repressed, which in turn can help reduce or change behavioural challenges. Playing music can also improve coordination and communication skills.

Who can benefit from Music Therapy?
Music therapy can benefit all populations including children, adolescents, adults, and the elderly, with mental health challenges, developmental and learning difficulties, Alzheimer’s and other aging-related conditions, substance abuse challenges, brain injuries, physical disabilities, acute and chronic pain, including mothers in labor! Music Therapy helps anyone, with any challenge to become a better version of themselves.

We all know how it feels to listen to a song or sound that brings back pleasant memories or takes us to a moment in time when things were simpler. The same theory applies to Music Therapy, but it's a little more strategic. Music therapy provides a diverse variety of musical experiences in an intentional and developmentally appropriate manner to effect changes in behavior and facilitate the development of communication, social/emotional, sensory motor skills, and cognitive skills.

Music therapy enhances and expands people’s quality of life. It can involve an entire team or family to help bridge communication and learning within the unit of participants. These relationships are structured and adapted through elements of music to create positive experiences crucial to growth and development.

Music therapy is not limited to people with special needs. Anyone can enjoy the benefits of music therapy, and we all do throughout our days, listening to the radio or our favourite soundtracks. Music therapy enhances these experiences by breaking down the music and seeing a connection between the music and your emotions. Music therapy, in this way, can spark areas of your brain that will help to develop necessary and lifelong skills.

Empowering people to learn and express themselves through music is an incredible therapy that everyone can relate to. This makes therapy tangible for anyone who wants to participate. Along the way, you may learn how to play a new instrument and express your unique skills and abilities through the music you create and play!

What are the health benefits of Music Therapy?
(Because of music’s) Music has a strong and immediate influence over our emotions and because of its ability to naturally increase neurochemicals (feel-good endorphins), music is now being added to rehabilitation programs worldwide.

Music has been used since the beginning of time not only to help express emotion but help humans connect to one another. Music therapy has been shown to improve both motor control and emotional functions in a wide and varying range of conditions. Musical interventions seem to naturally decrease symptoms of anxiety and depression, help ignite creativity, and improve communication between people.

Experts believe that music therapy can help achieve global improvements in personal well-being without the reliance on mind-altering drugs. Many institutions such as education, hospitals, and hospices are already using music therapy to help treat patients and their families.

Research suggests that some of the key ways music therapy can help you feel better or even lower the need for the use of medication include increases in the areas of:

1. Self-acceptance
2. Self-awareness and expression
3. Stimulation of speech
4. Motor integration
5. A sense of belonging
6. Enhanced communication and relationships with others which are both highly tied to overall happiness

A report by the Robert Wood Foundation released in 2004, was based on 600 different studies about music therapy showing that use of sound and light can have a dramatic effect on how fast and how well patients recover. Since then, many other centres are incorporating music therapy into their rehabilitation programs as part of an effort to create holistic healing environments, proving to be valuable in the treatment of trauma, common illness, boredom or restlessness among patients as well as adrenal fatigue or ‘burnout’ among caregivers.

How can Music Therapy help my child with sensory processing challenges?
Sensory Processing Disorder is common in people with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Anxiety, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and many other neurodiverse conditions and challenges. Music therapy can be used as individual therapy or integrated into a holistic approach designed for each individual who has challenges with their sensory systems.

Because of the nature of SPD, incorporating therapies based on the sensory system are integral to success in enhancing positive behaviour and communication, as well as relieving stress and anxiety that may be a complication of Sensory Processing Disorder.

(Because) Music therapy is a non-threatening medium, where many people with Autism Spectrum Disorder and other sensory processing challenges, find music therapy to be fun and exciting, rather than work. This increases the chances of having success simply because people enjoy their time at music therapy.

If a person is having challenges in the area of social interaction, music therapy can provide games like passing a ball back and forth to the music, or play with cymbals with another person to foster social interaction in a fun and easy way.

Eye contact may be encouraged or imitation with clapping noises having patients be aligned to be able to make eye contact which is key to social awareness and understanding. Preferred music may also be used to encourage groups to stay seated or remain in a group showing that cooperative social behaviours can be achieved with music playing.

Music therapy is very effective in the development of speech. Children with sensory processing challenges often have deficits in their ability to communicate through speech. Sometimes this can be a lack of speech or expressive speech that is impersonal. Listening to music and memorizing speech patterns, tone, and inflection through music, can help a person with SPD communicate much more clearly and appropriately with their environment.

Many Autistic children will sing before they speak. Music therapists will then work systematically on speech through vocal music activities. Songs with simple words, repetitive phrases, and even repetitive nonsense syllables can affect a person’s language. Meaningful word phrases and songs presented with visual and tactile cues can facilitate the process even further.

Some of our children with Sensory Processing challenges will also have difficulty with their motor skills and coordination. When integrating music therapy, a therapist will look at these challenges and help design a program that works with the music to develop skills such as jumping, walking, or other rhythmic movements. This helps to improve coordination and motor skills, as well as to help a person know where their (bodies) body is in relation to their environments.

Music is a fantastic tool that stimulates the entire brain. When used correctly, most challenges that people struggle with can be lessened or relieved by simple music strategies and music therapy.

In combination with other therapies, and integrating a holistic approach to interventions with people with Sensory Processing challenges, we will find that areas of the deficit will increasingly become more regulated which in turn, will help people develop coping strategies and stress relief for the long term.

Music, since the beginning of time, has been used to unite people, at social gatherings, in dance, and to invoke an emotional response. Music Therapy uses all of these premises to create programming suited for each person as an individual.

Therapists have used music to aid the learning process and to generate a response based on a particular emotional deficit or challenge. Music is an art form and cultural activity whose medium is sound in organized time. Music is energy. Music is fuel. What better way to inspire people to learn valuable life skills?

By incorporating all the elements music has to offer, we can combine the needs of a person living with sensory processing challenges in a relaxed, comfortable, and no-pressure environment. This helps to show the real potential of our amazing children!