Music Therapy

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Music therapy is a scientific and research based process of healing through music. It is basically the use of music to help heal on multiple levels physiologically and psychologically as well as work on the human cognitive and emotional well being. It helps the human body, mind and soul to relax and destress.


Why should I be aware of this?

There has been a lot of research done on how exactly music and notes help humans. Some experts feel that it is the rhythm and the pulse that has a calming effect subconsciously even if one is not really aware of it on the surface level. Research has proved conclusively that when a woman listens to music during pregnancy, it has an effect on the unborn child. Even the woman’s heartbeat has a deep rooted influence on the foetus.

How does this affect me?

Music is found to reduce heart rate and result in a higher body temperature which are symptoms of the human body relaxing. Music and musical activities help relieve and offset the pain threshold in patients. It actually results in the increase of serotonin, which helps create the feeling of joy in people.

All about music therapy

The use of music as a healing tool is known to have existed since ancient times. Be it Biblical evidence, Greek and Roman literature, ancient Egyptian texts or extracts from the Vedic scriptures – the use of music to heal has often been mentioned and has also been a long-standing tool. In the Old Testament when King Saul was sinking into depression, because of an evil spirit, David started playing the harp to help to calm and soothe him.

According to the ancient Greeks, Hippocrates, known to be the father of medicine, also used this therapy in his healing approach. In the Indian context, it has always been known that the pitch, tone and specific arrangement of swars (notes) and ragas (melody) help stimulate and cure many diseases. It is also known that there exists a close connection between the ragas and the time of the day, change of seasons and human emotional state.

Reactions to therapy

According to some research, the manner in which music affects people varies. Different pieces of music have differing reactions on the right and left brain and the levels of synchronization between them. One of the most amazing discoveries was that any music performed live and/or at reasonably loud volumes even if it was somewhat discordant had a positive response on the human psyche. In clinical terminology the normal voltage spiking pattern becomes a smooth wave form.

The entire human body is extremely influenced by sounds and there is a dynamic relationship between the different chakra centers and how they react to certain musical tones and frequencies. Music enables energy from the universal energy field to flow into the human energy field, thus creating a balance and correcting imbalances.

As a scientific tool

As a definitive tool for therapy, the controlled use of music helps people overcome a multitude of behavioral problems. Today it is being used extensively in hospitals, day care centers, mental health institutions, old age homes, rehabilitation, de-addiction centers and even prisons and correctional facilities. It can be administered both as a group session and individually. Though the length can vary, most times Music therapies are about an hour long.

Like in other medical treatment, a music therapist or someone qualified to administer this therapy, as a first step, gauges the problems and needs of individuals and then recommends and provides the necessary treatment, which can include either simply listening to music or creating music or actually moving along with the music. The normal process involves identifying the problem, setting a therapeutic end goal, creating musical activities related to the end goal and implementing and evaluating the progress. Research has shown that a positive reaction to this approach helps the patient in every other sphere of his or her life.

Expression of emotions or learning

The actual therapy can vary with need. It may involve composing musical pieces for expression of emotions or learning an instrument to aid motor skills and brain development or simply discussing lyrics and dancing to the music.

Music therapists work with a wide spectrum of people including patients with mental ilnesses, physical disabilities, abusive backgrounds, Alzheimer disease, cancer patients and terminally ill, Autistic, children suffering from Attention Deficient Disorders (ADD) and patients with brain injuries or in coma.

Bonny Method of Guided Imagery and Music

One of the most famous therapy method is the Bonny Method of Guided Imagery and Music. This technique, also known as GIM, was developed by music therapist Dr. Helen Bonny. It is a music-centered therapeutic process to access the human psyche which leads to self-actualization and eventual healing. This method also involves imaging to music in an alternate state of consciousness, at the same time sharing that imagery experience with a trained therapist. Dr. Helen Bonny discovered that when used as a therapeutic tool, GIM can lead to a deep uncovering of hidden emotional responses and stimulate creative insights.


Music therapy helps improve inter- personal communication, aids physical rehabilitation, provides an emotional anchor and help externalizing and giving a voice to inner turmoil and feelings. It can help people gain confidence, self worth and develop their motor and social skills as well. It helps in pain management and stress reduction. It also can help cure blood pressure problem and insomnia.

What can I do?

Self Help Techniques

One can use music in a number of ways to help lead a more beneficial life.

  • Having a 15 minute “sound bath” i.e. lying down in a quiet place and playing a piece of music that one finds relaxing and soothing to the mind has a very calming effect on the person's system. Wearing headphones can help avoid distractions and focus better. Music with a repetitive pattern and having a rhythm slower than the natural human heart beat, which is about 72 beats per minute, will have a more positive effect.
  • As the music plays on, concentrate on the breathing pattern, letting it deepen and become even. One should focus on the silences between the notes in the music. This helps in stopping the mind from analyzing the music and completes the relaxation process.
  • If one wants stimulation, one can choose a faster music piece .
  • Sometimes during times of stress, listening to music associated with happier times often leads to a much calmer state of mind.
  • If one is more of an outdoor person, one can opt for walking with the music playing. Inhale and exhale in tune with the music. It helps combine exercise, imagination and music.


  • Music as Medicine
  • Music Therapy
  • The Therapeutic Powers of Music
  • The Healing Power of Ayurveda

See Also