Music Therapy: What is it, and Does it Help?

Music Therapy: What is it, and Does it Help?

The victim of an attempted assassination, Gabrielle Giffords was unable to speak as a result of being shot in the head.  Part of her recovery included “music therapy”, alongside her various other therapies that she had to go through at the time. In her case, music therapy helped her relearn how to speak and had numerous other benefits to her recovery.


Going through a rough time, you may choose to listen to some music to help uplift you, or to help you relate to another person — to not feel so alone in your situation.  Emotionally, music has been proven to evoke powerful responses, and is linked to your mood.  However, it has also been shown to be linked to other mental as well as physical advancements.

What is Music Therapy?


Music therapy is “the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship”.  It is “is an established health profession in which music is used within a therapeutic relationship to address physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs of individuals.”


Music has been shown to help ease some physical pain, has shown to be beneficial for children and adolescents on the autism spectrum and, like in the aforementioned case of Gabrielle Giffords, help with brain injury.  One study, published in the Lancet, showed that music could help ease pain and anxiety in surgery patients — some of them didn’t even need as much pain medication as a result.


How does music do this?  Listening to pleasurable music releases dopamine — the chemical in your brain that makes you feel happy and good.  It’s the reward system in your brain, telling you that you like this thing — you should do it again.  Dopamine has been shown to play a role in pain perception, making your physical pain ease like a pain killer would.  In other words, the happier you feel, the chances are higher that you’ll feel less physical pain.


Is music therapy a cure-all?  Absolutely not.  In fact, there have been some arguments as to what music therapy does and doesn’t help in some medical fields.  For example, this 2006 study studied 38 patients with dementia to see if music would help treat agitation and anxiety in the patients.  They seemed to find that it did.  However, this study from three years prior (edited later in 2010), seemed to find from ten studies that this wasn’t the case.


Regardless, music has been shown to have benefits towards mental and physical health, and certainly will not harm you in any way.



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