Music Therapy for Health and Wellness

Lilia Grabenstein Professor Lambert Hartman GWRTC 103 11 October 2012 How Does Music Therapy Affect Patient’s Psychological and Physiological Well-being? Many countries that you can travel to, have their own style of music that makes up their culture, which is incorporated into their lifestyles. Music was not only created around the world for enjoyment, but has been used as a form of comfort, a stress reliever, and a healer (“What Is Music Therapy? ”).
According to the American Cancer Society, in their Find and Support Treatment section, music therapy was developed in during World War II where it was used in US Veteran Administration hospitals to treat soldiers from suffering from shell shock (“Music Therapy”). From a personal experience, I feel that music eases my tension, helps me focus, and relates to how I am feeling. In addition to my personal experience and connection with music, I was curious to see how music can be even more therapeutic. I am interested about the profession of music therapy as well as the effects that it has on patients and people with disabilities.
For my research, I decided to choose the question, “What effect does music therapy have on various patients’ physical and mental wellbeing? ” I wanted to examine this question more intently, because I believe that music therapy can provide evidence for a new method of healing for people that suffer from illnesses including cancer, disease, and depression as well as mental disabilities like autism. As I started my research, I first wanted to find out what music therapy was and what type of audience it was aimed toward.

The first resource that I found to steer me in the right direction was the Music Therapy Association website where I read, “What is Music Therapy? ” This provided me with the basic definition of music therapy and how it aimed to help their patients. Music Therapy is defined as, “the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program (“What is Music Therapy? ”). Here, I learned that the entire website is geared toward people who find it difficult to express themselves and feel strengthened by the music that the program is creating for them. For many years music therapy has been developing and helping to ease the pain of many patients ranging from various ages with illnesses and disorders. Specialized in this area, music therapists are “trained professionals who assess the well being of the physical health, communications, and functions of client needs” (“What Is Music Therapy? ). Some of their main goals are to “promote wellness, alleviate pain enhance memory, and promote physical rehabilitation” (“What Is Music Therapy? ”). The website gives you the opportunity to sign up as a Music Therapist, attend conferences for the program, and provides many stories and quotes about personal experiences with musical therapy. Although this website was beneficial to the start of my search, I knew I needed more to do more in depth research about my topic.
I decided to expand on my previous topic so I searched the LEO Library Website on the JMU page for further research. Here, I found a book called Interactive Music Therapy, where Amelia Oldfield shares her experience from traveling to a Child Development Center where she conducted a study the developmental relationship on children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and their parents. Since Oldfield specializes in studying children with ASD, I knew she would provide quality information for me to include.
For eighteen to twenty-six weeks Oldfield studied ten children and their parents by video analysis, semi-structured parent interviews, music therapy reports, and Parenting Stress Index questionnaires. After hours of recording data at the end of the study, nine out of ten parents felt the sessions proved to have a positive impact after participating in the program. The children resulted in increased levels of engagement, communication levels, playfulness, and interaction with their parents.
Parents PSI levels all lowered, but it was proven that two pairs of parents PSI levels decreased dramatically. The video analysis data was not as positive as the music report, which proved to be more helpful in the study (Oldfield 157-169). After reading this excerpt, I gained more insight into understanding how interactions, communication, and even relaxation levels can increase based on music therapy treatments. At this point in my study, I knew that I had made progress in researching he topic of music therapy and how it increased interaction of children with ASD. I knew that I had to dig even deeper if I wanted to support my question. Oldfield’s study seemed like children with ASD were increasing their connection with their parents. I wanted to learn even more about how music therapy could potentially improve autistic children’s learning methods. In my next source, Hayoung A. Lim shares a perspective of children with ASD in the classroom. In addition to my last research source, I decided to go to the library to further my research.
I took about six books off the shelf, and one that stood out to me was Developmental Speech-Language Training Through Music for Children With Autism Spectrum Disorders, by Hayoung A. Lim, which provided me with another variation of a test on children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. In a study Lim shares, Carla Hoskins investigated sung and spoken versions of three standardized speech tests, which included a verbal test, verbal with pictures, and a sung version with guitar. This was used to see if it would produce better short-term memory.
Through multiple tests with regular verbal talk, music, and music with words, there was a significant difference in learning experience of the children in each group. It appeared to be evident that the tests with the verbal music with pictures improved short-term memory, increased communication, created more focus in the classroom. The results of this research was the cause of enjoyment in accordance to the method using music and pictures, which took away from the boring learning atmosphere compared to other methods (Lim 73-77).
After reading this excerpt, I came to the conclusion that these tests and studies on children with ASD and delayed speech development started to clarify the first part of my question about the improvement of the psychological well-being of people. This information gave me a clearer perspective of how music and learning combined makes it more exciting, especially for children to gain knowledge about certain subjects. Besides children, I wanted to understand how music could also affect adults and teens.
Another great article that I found on the LexisNexis Academic database was about how music therapy can be an “effective tool in enhancing the quality of life among cancer survivors and people suffering from chronic illnesses” (Wee). May Wong Mei-lin found the Hong Breast Cancer Foundation after she experienced breast cancer herself, where the Hong Kong Music Therapy program had professionals perform for patients. A breast cancer survivor that attended Hong Kong Breast Cancer Foundation, Pollina Ip Lai-chun, joined a program called Melody-in-Mind after experiencing depression after chemotherapy.
She stated that singing lifted her spirits and she feels that she has become “more cheerful” (Wee). In Wee’s article, she included the four types of intervention in a music therapy session: performing including singing or playing instruments, composing, improvising, and listening. In addition, Wee included some studies in her article like one that was conducted in 2009 by the University of Maryland Medical center that found that, “Alzheimer’s patients who received music therapy experienced lower levels of anxiety and depression”.
She also discovered a study from Drexel University by Joke Bradt provided that, “music can reduce anxiety in cancer patients, and may also have positive effects on mood, pain, and quality of life”. Lastly, another study included from Nature Neuroscience showed that listening to preferred music could cause the brain to release a dopamine chemical that improves our moods. This information created answers to my questions and even expanded on the side effects music therapy can have on the brain. This positive feedback made my research process look even more promising.
After numerous amounts of research, I kept finding articles that discussed the improvement in psychological areas, but I was very adamant about learning if music therapy truly could help the physiological state of being for patients that had were in worse conditions of illness. If I could find more information about physical improvement, I could answer my initial question confidently. In some cases, I have heard that music can be a factor in curing sicknesses and diseases, so I was also curious to see if this information was factual.
In my final day of research, a study that I read from the American Cancer Society called “Music Therapy”, included that in a clinical trial, musical therapy provided for cancer patients was proven to reduce symptoms like high blood pressure, heart rate, insomnia, and breathing rate. This information provides evidence that music therapy can help our physiological state. While reading this article, I found the author included that music did help short-term pain after surgeries, but a key factor that I noticed was that he stated, “there were no difference in survival rates” (“Music Therapy”).
Soon after I read this, I realized that the method of musical therapy might help emotional well-being and decrease in levels like stress, but it would not actually cure a patient of a medical illness. After I searched through different data bases on the LEO Library, my eye caught various titles like “Music Therapy Cures Stroke Patients” and “Music Therapy Cures Cancer Patients”. However, the articles and excerpts I read were very short and did not have factual evidence to support the claims. With that, I have concluded that Music Therapy does not help our physiological wellbeing as much as it helps our psychological wellbeing.
Although I could not find too much supporting evidence about the physical aid that music therapy provides patients besides reducing things like heart rate, the last article I stumbled upon provided a new angle of vision toward my topic. Although I found many article about curing illnesses, this story provided a unique twist to my research about the use of music therapy in a hospice setting. The article “Music Therapy Taken To Hospice Patients”, Sarah Pitts, a trained musical therapist, worked in a four-year musical therapy program at the Hospice of West Alabama in Tuscaloosa.
Pitts brought instruments like drums, which helped release tension in children that had cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy. Pitts saw improvement in patients who had overcome strokes and had other similar impairments. She even played music for a family that requested here while the patient died peacefully. As Pitts simply played on her guitar and sang for patients, she was able help reduce anxiety in her patients and even a few patients became well enough to leave hospice (“Music Therapy Taken To Hospice Patients”).
This article did provide evidence of physical improvement in relation to patients with physical impairments, however, not enough information was provided that signified dramatic physical improvement. After hours of research spent in the library and online, I found that the art of music therapy provides a healing power for people everywhere. Whether we are elderly, youth, or teenagers, we all can find a comfort while listening to music. The goal of music therapists is to provide an interactive atmosphere where patients can socialize and physically watch a performance wherever they may reside.
In response to my initial research question, I have concluded that music therapy is beneficial in augmenting the intellect of children with disabilities, lowering anxiety levels, easing tension, and lowering heart rate, to name few. In addition, my research provided that music therapy alone doesn’t cure cancer and illnesses. There is a possibility that it has cured patients, but many studies that I read concluded that the music only eased short-term pain. Overall, I have found that music therapy has been proven to increase our psychological well being more than our physical wellbeing.
I would have to conduct more research about music therapy and its capability of physically curing patients fully in order to answer my research question more accurately. Annotated Bibiographies Lim, Hayoung A. Lim. Developmental Speech-Language Training Through Music for Children With Autism Spectrum Disorders. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2012. 73-77. Print. This book provides copious amounts of information for parents that are curious in learning about how they can help their child become more at ease by using music therapy.
In the chapter I read, there was a test that was made for children that tested the short term memory of children with ASD which improved after testing with musical therapy. This article is important because it informs us about different ways autistic children can enhance their development of intelligence with this unique approach. “Music Therapy”. Find Support and Treatment. American Cancer Society. 1 Nov. 2011. Web 10 Oct. 2012. The article from the American Cancer society website about music therapy is geared toward readers curious about alternative methods of relieving the pain of cancer patients.
It talks about the benefits of attaining an overall sense of well-being that patients receive from music therapy at the bedside in hospitals. This article is helpful in providing information about the many physical reliefs that music can help to treat various cancer patients. “Music Therapy Taken to Hospice Patients”. Hospice Management Advisor (2010): LexisNexis Academic. Web. 10 Oct. 2012. Written for readers who are interested in methods of healing during hospice, this journal article provides how a music therapist improved spirits of patients in critical conditions.
This article shares how being part of interactive musical therapy can help patients in hospice to ease their anxiety and maintain their peace by listening to therapists like Sarah Pitts. This information is valuable because it promotes the development of both psychological and physiological wellbeing that can improve attitudes of people that are suffering from illness. Oldfield, Amelia. Interactive Music Therapy: A Positive Approach. Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2006. 157-169. Print. In this interactive online book, Oldfield creates her focus toward parents of children with disabilities.
Specifically, in one of her studies, she observed interactions of parents and their children who took many music therapy tests and structured interviews. This chapter in the book provided that music therapy does have an impact on how children with autism interact with their surroundings, providing that they were more open to self-expression, learning, and interaction while listening to music during the tests. Wee, Margaret. “Music Therapy is Proving to be an Effective Tool in Enhancing the Quality of Life Among Cancer Survivors and People Suffering From Chronic Illnesses”.
South China Morning Post (2011): LexisNexis Academic. Web. 10 Oct. 2012. This is a journalistic article that features a story written for readers who are curious about cures for breast cancer. While music therapy is not exactly a cure for breast cancer, this article provides information about how it acts as a temporary healer for patients suffering from depression and anxiety during chemotherapy. This is an important article because it provides valuable information that can help researchers gain more insight about the healing music therapy promotes. What Is Music Therapy? ” Music Therapy Association. 2011. Web. 7 Oct. 2012. This website provides stories about various patient’s who experienced the healing of music therapy. The website provides an opportunity for music therapists to sign up online and join for a good cause. The website provides basic definitions and information about what the association is geared toward. From this there are many beneficial links about AMTA and how it is utilized in places like schools, nursing homes, and hospitals.

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