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The Impact of Music Therapy on Mental Health


When I worked in a mental hospital, I rolled my cart full of musical instruments and gadgets down the hall every morning. The patients who lingered in the hallway smiled and banged drums as they passed. Some people asked me if I had their favorite band on my iPad. Some would peek out of their rooms and exclaim, "Molly is here!" It's time for a music therapy group! Often times, I would hear of patients sleeping in their rooms when I arrived, but their friends would gently wake them up with a self-assured, "You don't want to miss this."

Music to my ears

I have been fortunate enough to serve many children and adults in various mental health settings as a music therapist. I have heard stories of resilience, strength and adversity. I have worked with people who have lived through trauma, depression, grief, addiction and more. These people did not come to me at their prime, but despite feeling lost or broken, the music provided the opportunity for them to express themselves and to experience safety, free essay writers online about this peace and comfort.

Research shows the benefits of music therapy for various mental health issues, including depression, trauma, and schizophrenia (to name a few). Music acts as a way to deal with emotions, trauma, and grief, but music can also be used as a regulating or calming agent for anxiety or deregulation.

Music therapy involves four major interventions:

Lyrical analysis

While talk therapy allows a person to talk about topics that may be difficult to discuss, lyric analysis introduces a new and less threatening approach to dealing with emotions, thoughts, and experiences. A person receiving music therapy is encouraged to offer insight, alternative lyrics, and tangible tools or themes from lyrics that can apply to obstacles in their life and treatment. We all have a song that we care deeply about and enjoy. Lyric analysis gives an individual the opportunity to identify song lyrics that may correlate with their experience.

Improvisational music

Playing instruments can encourage emotional expression, socialization, and exploration of various therapeutic themes (ie Conflict, Communication, Grieving, etc.). For example, a band can create a "storm" by playing drums, rain sticks, thunder tubes and other percussion instruments. The group can note areas of escalation and de-escalation in the improvisation, and the group can correlate the “ups and downs” of the storm to particular feelings they may have. This creates an opportunity for the group to discuss their feelings more.

Listening to active music

Music can be used to regulate mood. Because of its rhythmic and repetitive aspects, music engages the neocortex of our brain, which calms us down and reduces impulsivity. We often use music to match or change our mood. While there are benefits to matching music to our mood, it can potentially keep us depressed, angry, or anxious. To change mood states, a music therapist can play music to match the person's current mood, then slowly shift to a more positive or calm state.

Song writing

Writing songs provides opportunities for expression in positive and rewarding ways. Anyone can create lyrics that reflect their ownthoughts and experiences, and select the instruments and sounds that best reflect the emotion behind the lyrics. This process can be very rewarding and can help build self-esteem. This intervention can also create a sense of pride, as someone listens to their own creation.

On another side

When I was working in a residential treatment center, I was informed that a child refused to continue to see his usual therapist. Although he initially hesitated to meet me, he quickly got excited about our music therapy sessions.

During our first session we decided to check out the lyrics to “Carry On” by FUN. I asked her to explain what it means to be a "shining star", which is mentioned several times in the song. I was expecting this 8 year old to tell me something simple, like "that means you are special". But he surprised me when he said, in a neutral tone, “It means that you are something that other people notice.

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