Emotions are a complicated part of life, and everyone processes them differently. For those of us who struggle to cope with stress and strong negative emotions, music therapy can be a great resource for keeping these emotions from impacting our lives in a negative way.
For example, music therapy can be great for people who struggle with anger management. The American Music Therapy Association published an article titled A Music Therapy Anger Management Program for Forensic Offenders that analyzed how music therapy could help people with anger issues. This study noted that music therapy increased people’s awareness of their anger issues. Strong emotions can cause us to be disconnected from ourselves, so awareness is an important step towards properly coping. During the program, one of the techniques they used was having patients listening to music they selected, while recalling positive memories they’ve had in their lives. This exercise, coupled with other music therapy techniques, exposed patients to new coping methods they could use for their anger. One patient resorted to playing percussion instruments to deal with irritation rather than becoming violent.
Everyone experiences different levels of stress, and everyone deals with this stress differently. Whether one deals with severe daily stressors or only experiences moderate stress every once in a while, music therapy can help clients develop healthy coping mechanisms.
Stress can cause a lack of motivation and irritability. Not only can unchecked stress damage your mental state, but it can cause physical health problems as well. These can include muscle tension, headaches, chest pain, and many others.
Music therapy can calm your mind and body and has also been proven to help relieve pain and increase overall happiness. Music can help you take your mind off your stressors or learn to process them.
Depression, or Major Depressive Disorder, is a common mood disorder that affects a person’s ability to feel positive emotions, be productive, participate in activities that once interested them, etc.
Depression can be detrimental to a person’s physical health as well as their mental health and social life. It can cause a complete loss of appetite resulting in severe weight loss, or increased cravings resulting in speedy weight gain. Other possible physical symptoms of depression are bodily and mental exhaustion, and unexplained back pain or head aches.
The Cochrane Collaboration did a study testing the effectiveness of music therapy interventions when used in sessions with clients who had been diagnosed with clinical depression. In one intervention, the music therapist used melodies to ask the clients about their mental state. The goal of this intervention was to make the client feel understood, soothed, and listened to. Another intervention used in this study was listening to prerecorded music chosen by the music therapist. The client combined this with reflection and occasional exercise. The prerecorded music was also chosen to evoke different emotional states in the clients.
The results of the study, which was composed of five smaller studies, showed an association between music therapy and an improvement in mood in clients with clinical depression.
Anxiety, or Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is a disorder that overtakes a person’s ability to regulate their worry throughout the day. People who are diagnosed with this disorder find themselves unable to control their worry about various aspects of their lives including their personal and professional relationships, and their health.
This can be detrimental to everyday life because the fear of inevitable disaster may interfere with a person with GAD’s desire to socialize, attend events, or participate in activity. GAD can also affect a person’s physical health. Some somatic symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder are a disrupted sleep schedule, muscle aches, nausea, and digestive tract issues such as irritable bowel syndrome.
Music therapy has been proven to be helpful in reducing anxiety when used to help terminally ill patients in hospice care, as well as patients undergoing medical procedures. For procedures ranging from colonoscopies to surgeries, patients that listened to music before exhibited less anxiety and need for sedatives. Patients that heard music during and after their procedures reported less pain and discomfort during their procedure and less need for painkillers after the procedure.
In a study titled Music Therapy in Generalized Anxiety Disorder, participants diagnosed with GAD received music therapy to reduce the symptoms of their anxiety. The results of the study connected music therapy with a reduction of anxiety in these patients.
Sleep schedules vary across the human population, but sleep is very important to your mental and physical health and can dictate your day to day success. According to DayAfterInsomnia, “about 1 in 3 adults report having symptoms of insomnia”. So, if you find yourself struggling to get quality sleep, you are not alone. Insomnia is a sleep disorder that interferes with a person’s ability to fall asleep, stay asleep, or get a good night’s sleep in any form.
Students participated in a study that tested the capability of music therapy to improve their sleep quality. The study concluded that music therapy is a “pain-free, safe, and affordable treatment method” that successfully improved the students’ sleep quality. Another similar study was done on adults, and came to the same conclusion
You might think of music therapy only as a tool to improve mental health, but that is not the case. Music therapy can also have physical health benefits, one of which being pain relief. Music therapy can’t directly heal an injury, but it can help deal with the pain and make the road to recovery a lot smoother.
The calming element of music therapy comes back into play here. Listening to music, songwriting, and singing can help refocus energy on a mind-occupying activity instead of the pain. Listening to music not only distracts from the pain, but it can help relax the body to relieve tension that may be causing more pain. Music therapy can be used to relieve short term pain and chronic pain, which can reduce the need for pain medication.
On a more directly physical level, music therapy can reduce your risk of heart disease. Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States. As previously mentioned, music therapy can reduce stress and anxiety, two factors that can affect heart health.
A study published by the Cochrane Library revealed that people who participate in music interventions can reduce their risk of heart disease. The study examined the music interventions of 1,369 individuals with coronary heart disease. In the study, they found that music therapy’s ability to reduce anxiety and stress also led to the reduction of blood pressure and heart rate, which have direct connections to heart disease.
Music therapy is a helpful tool for those diagnosed with disorders like anxiety and depression. It’s just as helpful for people who struggle to process their emotions, struggle to get restful sleep, or want to improve their physical health through relaxation and stress reduction. No matter what a person struggles with, music therapy is a risk free opportunity to improve their mental and physical health.
Edited by Cara Jernigan on January 17, 2021