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Healing with Music

Aditi Chopra
Sept. 24, 2010

A psychologist with an interest in writing. I am presently working as a counsellor in an NGO for street children. With an experience in stress counselling and psychological testing of children, my field of interest is marriage and family counselling.

Our lives are surrounded by music, with sounds booming from various sources like the television, stereos, radio, temple bhajans and also from our wedding bands. For most of us, it is simply a blend of tunes, beats, sounds and voices. But, it is interesting to know that music, if used properly, can prove to be an effective tool in treating many ailments. It has a therapeutic impact on the human psyche- it is always associated with emotions, which in turn give rise to music.

Music therapy is a technique which uses music to achieve certain therapeutic goals. These include assistance in motor skills, cognitive development, social interaction, self-awareness and spiritual enhancement. It is conducted by trained professionals and is recommended by many doctors as a beneficial treatment. It can help in treating many problems like blood pressure and heart condition, depression, insomnia, dementia, dyslexia and trauma; therapy for pregnant women and hyperactive children. It is related to the field of psychotherapy and behavioral psychology.

Two methods are used in Music therapy: active and passive. The former requires active participation of the patient, for example if a child has a speech problem, he could be asked to sing swaras of the song he is made to listen for his therapy. The latter requires more concentration and listening from the patient’s side. Therapy can take place in a group or on a one-to-one basis.

Music therapists provide treatment through techniques like music improvisation, receptive music listening, song writing, discussion of lyrics, music and imagery, music performance and learning through music. They plan the treatment according to the client’s needs, then evaluate his responses, and follow up the results. Their activities produce changes in the behavior of people with mental, emotional, and physical disabilities. They cultivate the love for music in students with such disabilities.

Music therapists’ work with people belonging to all age groups- those with disabilities, addictions, disorders, and also with those recovering from an illness. Through their methods they help the patients to express themselves, relate to other people more confidently, become more aware of their feelings and bring a positive change in their lives.

Their work does not include teaching music. They just let their clients explore different musical instruments and their own voices, so that through these sounds they are able to communicate. Different types of music are played for the patients according to their needs and interests.

Though the study of music as a therapeutic tool is very popular in the West, even in our country it is being used for treatment. Some new courses have also been introduced for the study of music therapy.

Most music therapists work in psychiatric hospitals and rehabilitation centers. Some schools have also introduced the use of music therapy for the students. They work independently or closely with many special education professionals like physiotherapists, speech and language therapists and psychologists. Many people opt for this field after working as a professional musician, or working in areas like teaching, community and social work.

A music therapist should be patient, creative and resourceful in helping others through music. They should have good organizational skills and should be able to improvise on the therapy treatment, if required. They need to have a good knowledge about the various musical styles, musical theory and composition. It is better if he or she has completed an approved music therapy program.

Shakespeare once wrote: "If music be the food of love, play on...”- not just for love, but music is also food for the soul, which heals.

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