Alternative Medicine: Musical Therapy


Musical therapy refers to a process applied by healthcare practitioners to provide treatment through music. The aim of musical therapy is to meet patient needs through social activities that encourage communication through sharing and practice (Smith 38). A patient undergoes musical therapy only if a doctor recommends it. Numerous approaches apply in providing patients with this form of treatment.

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Human beings have an inherent ability to respond favorably to music and its numerous concepts. Musical concepts used in therapy apply anatomies of social, spiritual, objective, psychological, expressive or artistic forms. Although this practice had a slow reception, it has grown in leaps and bounds since the turn of the century. The number of musical therapists has grown because people continue to have a greater awareness of the practice (McFerrin 100). Statistics by the American Music Therapy Association indicate that over the last couple of years, it has grown to over 5,000 certified members. The medical practice provides help to various people in society under a variety of settings (Smith 42).

History of musical therapy

The association between music and healthcare dates back to ancient Greek and World War I. People in ancient Greek had Apollo who was their god of prophecy, poetry, healing, and music (King 16). He had the ability to cure mental diseases through the power of music. Although countries such as Egypt also applied music for treatment, its formal recognition and practice started during the start of World War I. Musicians across the United States of America would visit various hospitals to play music for servicemen who offered different services during the war (King 19). Development of musical therapy has had a lot of influence from both ancient and modern philosophers. The most notable philosophers who made an impact in music therapy include Plato and Aristotle.

Aristotle argued that music has the ability to affect the soul (Smith 51). He said that the effect of music on the soul helps to purify emotions, which results in improved health conditions, especially for mental patients. Recent studies have also demonstrated the science behind the use of music for treatment. Researchers at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, released an analysis of their research on the neuroscience of music early this year (McFerrin 112). Led by Daniel Levitin, the research analysis indicated that music has properties that help to relieve anxiety in people. The research also established that music can trigger the human body into producing a high number of antibodies responsible for immunity (McFerrin 117).

Application of musical therapy

Musical therapists have perfected the art of using music as a treatment tool for various medical conditions. This method of treatment applies mostly to patients with autism, mental disorders, as well as those with memory and thinking impairments (King 30). Musical therapy also applies in treating people with sensory impairments, disabilities, complications due to drug addiction, developmental disabilities, as well as the elderly. Musical therapists offer their services in a variety of settings that include community centers, prisons, learning institutions, hospitals, special schools, day care centers, and hospices among others. The uniqueness of this form of treatment is a mandatory musical experience for every patient who visits a therapist (Smith 80).

Treating a patient involves four crucial activities from which one can choose to develop their musical experience. The first activity is improvising, which involves a patient creating and singing his or her music within an indefinitely short time. A patient needs to perform without preparation by responding to feelings and situations explored during therapy. The second activity is re-creating, which involves a patient singing an already composed song (King 44). This activity helps in developing vocal, imitation, memorization, participation, performance, and practicing skills in a patient.

The third activity is composing, which involves a therapist assisting a patient to come up with a creative musical piece. Help from a therapist is important in providing technical assistance. The fourth activity is listening, which involves a patient listening to music and developing a reaction out of it. Patients respond by taking relaxed postures, meditating, imagining, and reminiscing among others (King 53).

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Musical therapists

Therapists often choose the kind of music used in every session depending on the condition of a patient, their preferences, and objectives of treatment. Therapists prepare for a treatment sessions, and provide a detailed appraisal of activities with every patient (McFerrin 134). Therapy preparations involve setting objectives for every session, developing a treatment plan, and identifying the best musical experiences for a patient depending on their health condition. Musical therapists ought to have certain qualifications and individual qualities for them to get a license. Individual qualities include good musical ability, a stable health condition, maturity, stamina, motivation, emotional intelligence, as well as a good sense of self-awareness (King 70). Musical therapists ought to have academic qualifications that include a degree in music therapy or its equivalent from a recognized institution.


Indeed, music is medicine. Musical therapy is one of the many forms of treatment used today. The medical practice is gaining popularity across the world, as more people are willing to learn about it. Just like any other form of treatment, musical therapy is an experience that many patients dread to go through. Therapy sessions create a lot of anxiety among patients, thus making the practice less relaxed and boring. To achieve success with this treatment, it is important for the therapist to develop intimate connections with their patients.

Works Cited

King, Betsey. Music Therapy: Another Path to Learning and Communication for Children on the Autism Spectrum. New York: Future Horizons, 2004. Print.

McFerrin, Katrina. Music Therapy. New York: Cengage learning, 2013. Print.

Smith, Rachel. Music Therapy in Context: Music, Meaning and Relationship. California: Cambridge University Press, 2003. Print.

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