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The Influence of Music Therapy on Mental Health

Music therapy is a multidisciplinary field drawing from disciplines such as psychology, musicology, sociology, and neurology. Music activates many regions of the brain associated with emotion and memory. The music you’ve heard throughout your life is preserved in your neural pathways and is associated with memories and feelings. Hearing a song that you enjoyed in college can bring up positive memories from your college days.


Listening to new music also stimulates your brain and can create new memories and associations.


Research shows that music can positively affect several brain chemicals, such as dopamine and oxytocin. Some evidence suggests music can also help lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol.


Conditions Music Therapy Treats


Although music therapy can be beneficial for just about anyone, some of the specific conditions music therapy is used to treat include:

  • Mood and anxiety disorders

  • Behavior disorders

  • Trauma

  • Substance abuse

  • Cognitive impairment

  • Chronic pain

  • Attention deficit/Hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

  • Autism spectrum disorders (ASD)

Before the session, your music therapist will assess your needs and strengths. You may discuss the following:

  • Emotional well-being

  • Trauma history

  • Physical health

  • Cognitive skills

  • Communication abilities

  • Physiological responses

  • Social functioning

Your music therapist will talk with you about your music background and your musical preferences. They will then work with you to identify goals and design appropriate music therapy experiences. Musical skills are not required.


This therapy may include the following:

  • Listening to music

  • Singing

  • Moving to music

  • Playing an instrument

  • Creating music

The Benefits of Music Therapy

Research in music therapy supports its effectiveness in several main areas, including psychological wellness, cognitive function, and social connections.


Psychological

  • Release repressed emotions

  • Lessen feelings of isolation

  • Improve mood

  • Decreased depression

  • Reduce anxiety

  • Manage stress

  • Provide an increased sense of control

Cognitive

  • Improve coping skills

  • Improve memory

Social

  • Bring people together socially

  • Improve communication for autistic children

Everyone, from children to seniors, can benefit from music therapy. Music therapy delivers a unique approach to mental health, opening opportunities for healing and expression. While it can assist in the growth of emotional, cognitive, and social skills for people of all ages, starting young children with music therapy early on can significantly enhance their development.


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