Music therapy is becoming an increasingly popular form of treatment for many, as it holds incredible physical and mental health benefits. Music is not only soothing to the ears; it also increases cognitive functioning in a variety of ways. Music brings about a sense of connection, aiding in comfort for processing all different kinds of emotions. Music therapy helps individuals to process these internal feelings and experiences creatively. The aim of music therapy is to help individuals address issues that they may not otherwise be able to explain or comprehend with words alone. Like music in general, music therapy can promote feelings of calmness, euphoria, emotional intimacy, and empowerment. With that being said, there is much wonder as to why music therapy has such powerful benefits.
What Is Music Therapy?
Music therapy is an evidence-based form of musical, therapeutic intervention used to help accomplish personalized goals. Music therapy encompasses various activities, including listening and interpreting music, playing an instrument, writing songs, using movement and dance, or focusing on guided imagery. Music therapists are trained, credential professionals that assess an individual or group’s physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs. They then create personalized sessions based on client needs using tools like music improvisation, songwriting, lyrical discussion, choreography, and more.
Music therapists encourage clients to have both active and passive interactions with the musical pieces provided. Sessions can last between 30 minutes up to an hour and can be provided on a weekly or “as-needed” basis. Many music therapy sessions can be covered by insurance, depending on referrals from doctors. Music stimulates the mind. How an individual’s brain goes about processing music can tell a lot about how the brain processes non-musical experiences in general.
Music and the Mind
There is no question that music has powerful effects on the mind, with different styles of music producing different results. All aspects of music are processed in different parts of the brain, such as pitch, tempo, melody, etc. For example, rhythm is processed using the right side of the brain, with the creation of rhythm rooting from the motor cortex and cerebellum. Pitch and tone are analyzed in the auditory cortex in the brain. Research published by the Royal College of Physicians collected that how the brain processes music is complex, referring to the concept of music as being a “whole-brain” phenomenon. This may begin to introduce why music has such positive effects on multiple facets of mental health, as music affects all different parts of the brain, if not all of it at once.
The Benefits of Music on Mood
To understand why music therapy has such positive effects on mental health, it is essential to acknowledge how music can influence one’s mood. Certain music styles can surface a range of different moods. It is easy to see that music can be used as an elevator for mood and a coping mechanism during times of sadness. An example of this is that many individuals tend to play more upbeat music to positively influence their motivation and drive during a workout. Another example may be playing slower, classical music to improve focus when studying. These examples are tuning specifically to tempo, although lyrics and melody can have their own effects as well. Needless to say, it is fascinating that each person has a unique reaction to one specific song or piece of music.
Music Therapy With Anxiety and Depression
Music directly affects the number of stress hormones that are released in the body. Music therapy aims to reduce these hormones being released, which helps to relieve physical sensations of anxiety. Some positive effects of music therapy on anxiety sensations include lowering blood pressure, reduced muscle tension, and increased pain management. Research shows a significant reduction in anxiety immediately following music therapy sessions, indicating that this form of therapy could be a convenient way to reduce anxiety symptoms quickly. With this being said, there is also evidence that music therapy provides short-term benefits for people with depression. Research for the benefits of music therapy for depression shows enhanced communication and social skills, self-reflection, self-regulation, and increased motivation and joy.
Nearly decades of research later, the complexity of the human brain still remains a wonder to all. How the brain processes music is yet another complex issue, although music’s benefits on the mind and body cannot be avoided. Just remember, when certain lyrics or melodies trigger the brain, specific emotions and memories may need to be processed with the help of a music therapist. Consider looking into music therapy as a beneficial form of treatment for anyone experiencing addiction or looking for recovery.
Music and feelings have always shared a connection. Music is constantly around us, whether it is in the forms of vibrations, sounds, or songs. When emotions become difficult for us to process, music therapy provides a creative outlet for expression. Music therapists are trained to guide individuals through experiences that they otherwise cannot process through words. The benefits for mental health produced by music therapy range from alleviating physical and mental symptoms of anxiety and depression to enhancing emotional intimacy, connection, and feelings of overall well-being. At West Coast Recovery Centers, we incorporate music therapy into individualized treatment plans. We offer many holistic forms of treatment and therapy options for those needing support in their recovery journey. Our goal is to provide you with a level of care that is not only clinically appropriate but allows you to fulfill your other obligations. For more information about the treatments and resources we offer, please contact us at (760) 492-6509.