What Is Music Therapy & How Does it Work?

What is Music Therapy?

Music therapy can be an effective option for helping the body to heal from an injury, aiding the brain in healing from trauma, relieving stress, regulating emotion, and more. Music has always had an influence on a person’s mood, but what is music therapy? How does music therapy work in relation to our mental and physical health?

What Is Music Therapy?

Music therapy is a process where music is used to facilitate improvements in emotional, cognitive, social, and even physical areas of life. A trained and certified music therapist may work in various healthcare or education settings and utilize therapeutic strategies with individuals or groups.

Clinical trials and evidence-based theories have been used to help create effective music therapy techniques for people of all ages and music skill levels. The use of specific practices, often combined with guided imagery, can facilitate discussion around emotional responses and help in many different areas.

  • Enhance memory
  • Improve mood
  • Promote wellness
  • Manage stress
  • Improve communication
  • Promote physical rehabilitation
  • Alleviate pain
  • Provide an outlet for expressing feelings
  • And more

How Does Music Therapy Work?

Understanding how music therapy works can help clarify what music therapy is and why it is a great strategy to use in healing, addiction, and more. During music therapy, a client may have the opportunity to listen to music and discuss what images it brings to mind. They may play music with various instruments to relieve stress, write music and express emotions, or use music to facilitate discussions. They may also simply have music playing in the background during talk therapy or listen to music during an activity, such as yoga.

Therapy sessions are specifically designed around the patient’s emotional, physical, or mental needs and goals. 

What Happens to the Brain During Music Therapy?

You may have noticed changes to your mood in the past when listening to different types of music. This is a common occurrence but has previously not been validated by scientists. However, more studies have recently been conducted and have provided support for music therapy and how it affects your biology. For example, the Bonny Method for Guided Imagery in Music Therapy (GIM) has been shown to aid recovery in patients with both psychological and physiological ailments. 

Music affects our brains in specific ways, such as those mentioned below:

  • Dopamine is released – Dopamine brings a feeling of reward and is beneficial for depression, anxiety, and motivation.
  • Stimulation – Music stimulates various parts of the brain affecting memory, movement, emotion, listening, visual imagery, and physical movement.
  • Hebbian theory – If two neurons fire at the same time in the brain, they also learn at the same time. If we move our bodies while listening to music, an association is made, and our heartbeat and breathing will begin to match the beat. We can also use this association to help with certain disabilities. For example, if a patient practices movement to a song, they can use that song to help them when movement is difficult.

Summit Malibu

Summit Malibu is the longest running boutique addiction treatment center in Malibu, California. Our residential rehab program offers dual diagnosis drug and alcohol addiction treatment to heal the mind, body, and soul. Summit Malibu is Joint Commission Accredited and licensed by the California Department of Health Care Services.