Why Music Works
Music therapy is the therapeutic use of music to help people gain greater health and vitality.
Music therapists are board-certified, licensed, and professionally educated in music therapy.
Creating music allows us to express ourselves through sound, even when it is difficult – or even impossible – to do so through words.
Music provides opportunities for non-verbal communication
Self-expression helps us move through emotions and connect with one another in times of joy and in times of need, and music can provide powerful opportunities for nonverbal expression and communication. This nonverbal self-expression is useful for people who have experienced trauma that is difficult to verbalize, and for individuals who have difficulty verbally expressing their emotional or physical needs.
Music can help with speech development and recovery
Music can help with speech development and speech recovery. For people with speech delays or neurologic diseases that affect speech, music and singing can provide avenues in the brain for language to enter. While speaking uses one area of the brain, singing utilizes multiple areas of the brain. Whether a person is having difficulty verbalizing certain words, or having trouble communicating fluently, music can provide the structure and stimulation to achieve both. Individuals with speech delays or difficulties are often able to sing words better than they are able to speak them. Once singing has been used to acquire language, those pathways in the brain are strengthened and an individual may improve speech function over time.
Music touches memory and emotion
Even for people who are able to verbally express themselves, music still is invaluable. Music is tied to memories, important life events, emotions, and actually has the ability to physiologically change us. Listening to certain music can transport us to a different time, feeling, place, or state of mind. When a music therapist brings music into a hospital or hospice room, families and patients are much quicker to relate and openly express whatever is real for them in the moment, whether that be gratitude, sadness, pain, love, or joy. Music touches us in deep ways and helps us to express our emotions freely.
Music therapists focus on each person’s expression
Music therapists develop relationships with those they serve, creating a safe environment for expression. Music therapists also know how to provide music that is accessible to maximize a person’s ability to express themselves. Some techniques used for increasing expression involve instrument play, musical improvisation, songwriting, singing, and personally significant songs to listen to and/or discuss.
Rhythm is innate
Sense of rhythm is the first thing that is instilled in us from before we were born – the heartbeat of a mother, the rhythm of breathing, being rocked back and forth. Rhythm is also the last musical sense to go when a person has dementia. Simply holding hands, singing, making eye contact, and moving to music can be an incredible to way to connect with someone with dementia. It’s no wonder that through a person’s entire life, music provides a way of connecting us to one another.
Music is communication
When individuals improvise music together, there is a dynamic process of communicating that involves listening and “talking” at the same time. Two individuals improvising music are in a constant dialogue of responding to the other. The musical dialogue occurs through taking turns, making eye contact, responding to changes in tempo and loudness, and sharing laughter when something unexpected occurs.
Music is a bridge
Music is a bridge for connecting people to one another. People with autism often have difficulty relating to others or identifying emotions in themselves and others. Music can be used to develop social skills in a fun and structured way. Singing hello and making eye contact, telling stories through songs that involve emotions, identifying emotions that come up during a session and finding ways to communicate the emotions either verbally or musically. These are all ways that connection is made possible through music.
It’s no surprise that when people participate in our music groups, they become part of something bigger than the music—they become part of a fun and welcoming community. Music is the glue that holds our community of participants together; it gives many adults with disabilities a good reason to leave their homes, connect with others, and be themselves.
Music can provide immediate access to emotion, and tools such as songwriting and lyric analysis can help process and transform difficult emotions. Music can empower us to understand and express parts of ourselves that need to be released and heard.
Our emotions are intimately tied to our physical well-being. Correlations between stress and many chronic diseases have been widely documented. Relaxation, meditation, guided imagery, singing, and dancing can help reduce the physical and psychological effects of stress. Music has also been shown to help people regain lost physical capacities and strengths and achieve greater endurance during rehabilitation.
Music is the only external stimulus in our world that activates the whole brain. This means that it can be a very powerful tool in helping our brains recover lost capacities such as speech or memories, and learn new skills. Music can help to organize or temper people’s thoughts for greater mental clarity and concentration.
Relational Health Music creates conduits for connection and meaning between people, particularly during our most profound moments in life. It can be hard to overcome the sense of isolation that many people feel. Participating in music is a natural and immediate way to come into community with other people.
End of Life Even at the end of life, healing can occur. For a person on hospice, healing may come in the form of restoring positive memories, expressing love to loved ones, and/or releasing the mind from anxiety and fear. Hospice patients and family members alike can experience greater emotional and spiritual health during the dying process with the addition of music therapy.
Sing, dance, create, and play! With opportunities to be seen and heard, music can help us celebrate our strengths, growth, and potential.
What better way to celebrate the person you’re becoming and the milestones you’ve accomplished than through music and dance? Our music programs occur in the web of a tight knit family and community. When people start to recognize their own power, their own voice, their own dance, they find the power to be their biggest, most vibrant selves.
Community-based music therapy provides people with opportunities to grow and demonstrate what they’ve accomplished musically and personally. We hold various events throughout the year for people to share their joy, talents, and skills with their peers and loved ones.
Frequently Asked Questions
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What do music therapists do?
How does someone become a music therapist?
How do I schedule a music therapy session for myself, my child, or my organization?
How often are appointments typically scheduled?
Is music therapy the same as music lessons?
Why isn't music therapy free?
What the Research is Saying
We gather our favorite new research papers as they continue to roll out, documenting the power of music therapy to effect deep and lasting change in people's lives.