Musictherapy Doctor

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What is music therapy?

Music therapy is the use of music and/or elements of music (like sound, rhythm and harmony) to accomplish goals, like reducing stress or improving quality of life. A healthcare provider called a music therapist talks to you to learn more about your needs, music preferences and experiences, and designs each session specifically for you. They also evaluate your progress each step of the way, and may work with your other healthcare providers to coordinate your care.

The number of sessions you have, the length of each session and what you do depends on your individual needs and goals. Music therapy experiences may include singing, playing instruments or writing music. Some sessions may involve listening to music and talking about its meaning.

Healthcare providers use music as therapy in many contexts, including at the bedside for people in hospitals. However, music therapy isn’t the same as listening to music to help you relax. Music can certainly be a powerful tool for calming and healing. But the definition of clinical musical therapy states that a qualified music therapist must plan and lead the session within a therapeutic relationship for it to qualify as this form of treatment.

How does music therapy work?

The way that music affects the brain is very complex. All aspects of music including pitch, tempo, and melody are processed by different areas of the brain.

For instance, the cerebellum processes rhythm, the frontal lobes decode the emotional signals created by the music, and a small portion of the right temporal lobe helps understand pitch.

The reward center of the brain, called the nucleus accumbens, can even produce strong physical signs of pleasure, such as goosebumps, when it hears powerful music.

Music therapy can use these deep physical reactions the body has to music to help people with mental health conditions.

Benefits Of Music Therapy

For instance, learning and practicing a piece of music can improve memory skills, coordination, reading, comprehension, and math skills, and it can also give lessons in responsibility and perseverance.

People can also enjoy a great sense of achievement from creating a piece of music, which can help improve their mood and self-esteem.

Music therapy can also introduce people to many different cultures, as clients can explore any type and genre of music during therapy. Understanding the history behind a piece of music can help people connect with the music they are hearing or playing.

Although self-expression is a part of talking therapy, music therapy allows people to express themselves in a creative way, which can be a more enjoyable way of exploring difficult emotions.

Some of the documented benefits of music therapy include:

  • improved self-esteem
  • decreased anxiety
  • increased motivation
  • successful and safe emotional release
  • increased verbalization
  • stronger connections with other people


Music therapy generally produces positive results, but it is not recommended as a stand-alone treatment for serious medical and psychiatric issues. While music may help to alleviate some of the symptoms of these conditions, other forms of treatment such as medication, physical therapy, or psychotherapy may also be necessary.

Further, while it is possible for any form of music to be used effectively in music therapy, not all individuals will find each type of music to be therapeutic. The benefit of a particular type of music will often depend on an individual's preferences and the condition experienced by that individual, and some music forms may actually cause agitation. To achieve success with music therapy, a therapist will likely need to ensure the musical preferences of the individual in treatment are taken into consideration.