I have seen music do a great number of things and there is no doubt in my mind that Music Can Heal. Music has the ability to reach every person, no matter their age, social status, race, developmental level, gender, or religious belief. When used in a systematic way by a trained music therapist, music can be such a powerful practice to heal one’s body, mind or spirit.
Take a look below to see some of the things that make music such a great choice for people who are suffering from some of our country’s most common health disorders.
Autism and other Developmental Disorders
- Music is non threatening – You don’t have to use words, you don’t have to understand how to do it, or how to process it. You can just experience it, and often times, enjoy that experience. When administered by a music therapist, music can calm someone who is in fight/flight mode. When people are not threatened, and they feel safe, then they are able to grow and they are able to learn.
- Repetitive speech patterns or behaviors can easily be put into a song, and the music therapist can use rhythm to physically attune with the person. Music is a way to ‘join’ and ‘engage’.
- So many songs have a built in call and response, which is essentially reciprocal communication. Music therapy provides natural opportunities to learn and develop communication skills.
- Music provides an easy way to be social. No matter what level of functioning you are, you can participate in a music therapy group and experience being a part of something bigger than yourself.
NICU – Neonatal Intensive Care Unit
- Music soothes the infant and has a positive effect on heart rate, oxygen saturation levels, and respiration rate.
- Music provides multimodal sensory stimulation which produces brain growth.
- Music Therapist Jayne Standley, Phd created the The Pacifier Activated Lullaby; a device to help NICU babies learn how to suck and swallow. PAL® uses a specially wired pacifier and speaker system to play a soft lullaby each time a baby completes a successful sucking motion. The device has shown to help reduce hospital stay times!!
- Music therapy is something parents can be involved in and it can increase bonding.
- Songwriting has a huge impact on families because it allows them to express feelings to each other and it leaves a legacy.
- Listening to music alone has shown to drop people’s pain levels 1-2 scales, and it shows a reduction in pain medication. It also stimulates so many other senses that it can distract the patient’s attention and relieve stress and anxiety.
- Many people have reported having a ‘spiritual experience’ when they are listening to music, playing or at a live show. And hymnals, chants, and spirituals are used by every religion as a part of worship. Music can help hospice patients that are seeking spiritual support at the end of their life.
- Trauma changes the brain and the nervous system becomes unable to regulate itself for years after a traumatic event. Areas in the left frontal cortex, specifically the Broca’s area (speech center) shut down. Music helps organize the nervous system and is the only mode to stimulate ALL areas of the brain. Using different music therapy techniques can stimulate different parts of the brain that need to work in order for the healing and integration of trauma to happen.
- Memories are stored in the body. Music is a somatic tool. It provides a way to activate the body for integration of traumatic memories, and to anchor positive memories.
- Music is the perfect way to create a resource, something that is necessary to heal from PTSD. Music can easily create a good feeling, and when used in a systematic way with the support of a therapist, it can be used to diffuse triggers and loops of past trauma.
- Music stimulates our brain and gives it many things to focus on. Music can be a great tool to teach mindfulness and focus by learning a new instrument.
- Many kids who have ADHD need more opportunities to move their body. Music gets our bodies involved through dancing, singing and playing.
- Music helps us practice impulse control and modulation through starting and stopping songs together in a group or by playing with dynamics or tempo change within a song.
- The old saying ‘If I’m not expressed I’m depressed’ is true. People who suffer from Anxiety and Depression are often lacking output and are overwhelmed with input. Music can help us express backed up thoughts and feelings through songwriting or playing/singing.
- Music stimulates and balances our brain chemistry. It can increase dopamine levels or decrease cortisol levels . It is important to work with a music therapist who can help you choose the right music for your needs.
- Music has been shown time and time again to regulate breath/blood pressure/heart rate. The perfect tool to have in your panic attack first aid kit!
- Singing stimulates the brain! Linda Maguire created a study which shows that singing in group music sessions significantly improves the cognitive abilities of moderate to severe dementia. She writes that “Musical aptitude and music appreciation are two of the last remaining abilities in patients with Alzheimer’s Disease”. The areas of the brain that process singing and music listening are found to have the least amount of damage from the disease.
- Music evokes emotion, and that is what recalls a memory!!
- Music makes getting physically active fun!! Crossing mid-line, doing range of motion exercise and lifting light weights during a music and movement class can keep people physically fit.
- Families can begin to feel what it is like to connect again when they are listening to or playing music together.
- Music brings play and communication back into the family experience.
- Playing music together or writing a song together with the therapist can help repair old emotional wounds and build trust.
MUSIC BRINGS HOPE
One of the most healing things that I have seen music do is bring Hope to someone who is suffering. We all have struggles and most of you reading this today either have one of the disorders I wrote about or you know someone close to you who does. Each of these struggles produces moments of despair. Music is something that time and time again provides the hope to keep going, to keep trying and to remember that life is beautiful and can be enjoyed.
The Owl Creek Gazette Self-Reliance and Sustainability Faire is coming up on April 14th, and I will be presenting more about The Healing Power of Music. If you would like to hear more on this topic come join us! I am excited to offer some hands on examples of music therapy as well as answer anyone’s questions about using it to heal.