Music Therapy
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Quite evidently, music does affect the human soul. Why otherwise would one feel like tapping the feet to a particular music, while feel like closing the eyes and rock in a trancelike state for some other music? Obviously, music has deep-rooted effects in the nervous system of humans, and even some animals. Though this has been known since centuries to people of Greek, Egyptian, Chinese, Indian and Japanese cultures; it is only recently that music has been looked upon as an effective source of therapy.

It was the early Greeks that first put forward the theory of music as a curative therapy as far back as the 16 th century. They were the first to use music to relax patients suffering from chronic ailments and to soothe the poor people who needed to undergo surgical methods. It must be noted that anesthesia wasn’t discovered at that time, and music did the job of calming the nerves of the person undergoing the surgeon’s knife. But there are references of music being used as a curative agent much before that. Even in the Old Testament of the Bible, we have a young David who was hired to play the lyre to King Saul in order to soothe his nerves after a hard day’s work.

Let us see the various aspects of music therapy and attempt to understand whether this method is really worth it or not.

Definition of Music Therapy

In its simplest sense, music therapy is the playing of music to a disturbed or sick person in order to bring him/her to a relaxed state. This can be done by simply playing soothing music to the person without a break in between. The music should be of a calming nature and should be elemental, i.e. played with a few instruments.

Anybody can play the music to a sick person; but there are actually professionals who can do the job much better. There are degree and diploma courses to learn music therapy and to take it up as a profession. The professionals would delve into the background of the person and then select the music accordingly. They would either play fragments of different musical scores, or even whole tracks according to the case they are handling. A good professional would intersperse the musical interludes with calming conversation with the patient and building up a spirit of resilience, which could help the patient in overcoming his/her ailment.

Selection of Music for Music Therapy

The music is selected largely on the basis of the person’s preferences and tastes. Professional music therapists have a stock of different genres of music ready, and they would usually mix and match several different genres to get the desired effect in their patients.

The method employed is usually to begin with soft music such as lounge or jazz instrumental, and slowly build up the pace. The follow-up could be country or bluegrass, then pop and even ending with rock and metal core. Once the pace is built up heavily, the music therapist could bring it down again with soft music. This creates a surge and ebb of emotions and responses in the nervous system of the patient and helps very greatly in calming the person down; and at the same time increasing his/her reflexes.

The above method is only an example, and different music therapists would have evolved techniques and methods of their own. There are no set rules to what kind of music should be played, and this provides the music therapists with a great deal of liberty with their choice of music, and also gives them a wide berth to experiment.

It has been proved in a recent survey that people always fondly remember the music they have heard in their teenage years. Music that is repeatedly played in the years between 15 and 25 remain in the minds of the people throughout their lives. Even in old age, if they happen to hear that music, it brings on a surge of emotions in them. Music therapists are nowadays keeping this in mind and selecting their music accordingly.

Effectiveness of Music Therapy

Music therapy is vouched for by people who practice it regularly. The premise of this therapy is the soothing of the nervous system which could be the root cause of many diseases. Therapists believe that music therapy causes a better coordination between the sensory and the motor nerves, which is a moot point in the treatment.

Today, music therapy is being widely used for the following purposes:-

  • Increasing coordination in the nervous system
  • Relaxing the muscles and the nerves, i.e. bringing the body to a restful state
  • Improving the social and interpersonal development of a person
  • Increasing the cognitive ability
  • Enriching the individual in a spiritual sense.

Arguments against Music Therapy

As with any alternative therapy, there are also several detractors of music therapy. People in conventional streams of medical science claim that music therapy has no more than a placebo effect on the individual, i.e. the person builds up a confidence that he/she will get better and nothing more than that. They also contest the claim of music therapy that it can reduce pain. Medical experts say that though music therapy could have some effects in nervous disorders, it cannot eradicate pain and other such sufferings with the body.

Despite all that, music therapy is becoming popular today, especially in the higher social circles. People are also forming clubs and organizations where music therapy is being used for group benefits.