Sam Gilbert is a journalism sophomore and Mustang Daily health columnist.
Ever heard a song on the radio that reminds you of the past, so you melodramatically turned to look out the window with one elegant tear rolling down your cheek like you’re a character in a movie?
If so, don’t be embarrassed — well, too embarrassed — because I guarantee approximately 90 percent of the people reading this have done the same.
Music evokes emotions unlike anything else. I’ll be honest, if anyone saw me at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival last weekend during Of Monsters and Men, they’d agree. That’s why music is actually used therapeutically, for both mental and physical ailments.
Music therapy is a process in which a therapist uses music’s physical, emotional, mental, social and spiritual assets to help improve or maintain a client’s health.
According to the American Music Therapy Association, therapists “assess emotional well-being, physical health, social functioning, communication abilities and cognitive skills through musical responses.”
These aspects can be addressed through music sessions in accordance to the exact problem using music improvisation, receptive music listening, songwriting, lyric discussion, music and imagery, music performance and learning through music.
Individuals of all ages can be helped through this process. However, most specifically, people with metal health needs (especially anxiety or depression), developmental or learning disabilities, Alzheimer’s disease, substance abuse problems, brain injuries, physical injuries and acute or chronic pain.
When I first heard about this, I wondered why I would waste my money on a therapist when it seems like the real therapist is my iTunes library. However, what happens in the sessions actually appears to be an incredibly unique and beneficial experience.
According to Boyer College of Music and Dance‘s website, a musical experience of some kind is incorporated into each session in order to focus on what needs to be changed.
For example, improvisation is used most often on clients in order to work on spontaneity, creativity, freedom of expression, communication and interpersonal skills.
“Improvising enables these clients to communicate and share feelings with others, while also helping them to organize their thoughts and ideas in a meaningful way,” the Boyer College of Music and Dance website states.
The website also notes that composing music is an interesting aspect to the therapy, as it is used “to learn how to make decisions and commitments, and to find ways of working economically and within certain limitations.”
By creating a song or music, an idea is put down on paper and emotions can suddenly be addressed. This has been found to be a good way to discover underlying fears or feelings.
By actually playing an instrument, physically disabled patients begin to improve motor skills and coordination. By also reading sheet music, clients can improve in visual and auditory motor skills as well.
By learning to play an instrument, emotionally disturbed children can also work on behavior by finding an outlet to control impulsivity.
I’ve never been seriously emotionally disturbed, but through my experience learning to play the guitar, I’ve found a way to release any bad feelings or thoughts by just playing the instrument. It not only gave me goals to focus on by wanting to get better, but I also found satisfaction and achievement by continually playing and growing as a musician. Just saying.
The most interesting aspect of music therapy, in my opinion, is the listening portion. Therapists use this with clients to soothe them physically, emotionally, intellectually or spiritually.
Apparently, there is a reason doctors’ offices usually blast Enya and Norah Jones — in order to ease the stress.
According to an article by U.S. News Health, discoveries about neuroscience and brain imagery revealed exactly how music affects the brain.
“Beyond improving movement and speech music can trigger the release of mood-altering brain chemicals and once-lost memories and emotions,” Oliver Sacks, a noted neurologist and professor at Columbia University, is quoted as saying in the article.
Music has also been found to positively impact those diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, as well as people who experience a stroke. The brain is attuned to respond to rhythmic music and “it’s thought that the music triggers networks of neurons to translate the cadence into organized movement,” according to the U.S. News Health article.
“Slow rhythms can ease the muscle bursts and jerky motions of Parkinson’s patients with involuntary tremors,” Concetta Tomaino, co-founder of the Institute for Music and Neurologic Function in New York City, is quoted as saying in the article.
The impact music has on an individual both mentally and physically is amazing.
If you ask me, this is the perfect excuse to buy an Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival ticket. Hey, it’s for mental health.