Embrace Your Creative Side to Find The Right Cure

Using Art and Music Therapy to Help Treat Health Conditions

Being diagnosed with a health condition can be very frightening, but luckily there are many treatments available. While almost all medical professionals have different approaches - many believe to start with the least invasive form of treatment. Often, that form of treatment is something that enhances the creative side of a person.

Art and music therapy are two treatments that have been proven to be successful. Both treatments are good options, but the patient’s condition, age, and additional factors can help decide which one is best. For this article we will be focusing on these five questions:

  • What is Art Therapy?
  • What is Music Therapy?
  • What are the differences?
  • What are the benefits?
  • Which is right for you?

Art Therapy vs. Music Therapy

What is art therapy? What is music therapy?

As mentioned, art therapy and music therapy are both great forms of therapy that enhance one's creative side. The definition of art therapy from the American Art Therapy Association (AATA) is a mental health and human service profession to aid in the enrichment of lives, families, and communities. This treatment has the potential to aid in cognitive, sensory, and motor skills.

Music therapy, which is a common topic of discussion for Incadence, can also aid in improving cognitive, sensory, and motor skills. Music therapy, by definition from the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA), is the clinical and evidence based intervention of music to help accomplish goals. Goals can be individual goals or a group goal. This treatment must be led by a music therapist.

Difference Between Art and Music Therapy

Is enhancing one’s creative side the only similarity?

Art therapy is completed with guidance of an art therapist. An art therapy session consists of talking to the therapist, making art, then examining the art. If willing, the patient will have a chance to possibly discuss their art with the therapist. This form of therapy focuses more on the process rather than the final product.

little girl sitting on woman's lap painting.
Benefits are much greater in guided art therapy sessions. Image courtesy of Verywell Mind.

Music therapy, which is also a guided treatment, is less hands on. Therefore, it must also be completed with the assistance of a music therapist. When saying this treatment is less hands on means that sometimes the patient will not even touch a music instrument, sing, or dance. In some cases, music therapy has been used on unresponsive patients. Sometimes, music therapy will be interactive where patients will have the chance to sing, dance, or play a musical instrument alongside a therapist.

The main difference between the two different types of therapy is that art is more hands-on. Music therapy has the ability to be used wherever and whenever, whereas art therapy is typically used in an art studio or where supplies are made available. For those who use art therapy, they must be alert and responsive whereas music therapy patients can be unresponsive.

Benefits of Art and Music Therapy

Are the results the same?

Because of the differences between the status of a patient’s consciousness, the benefits are also different. However, these differences are because art therapy and music therapy do not treat the same type of patients. Art therapy treats patients who are typically facing psychological disorders such as stress, anxiety, or depression. However, if someone has a physical disability, art therapy can be used to help cope.

older woman in chair doing looking at artwork she created on a table. younger woman stands behind her admiring the same artwork
Discussing artwork before or after a session can help patients to help communicate emotions. Image courtesy of Memorial Sloan Kettering.

On the other hand, music therapy patients can be suffering from a more debilitating condition such as Alzhemier’s or Aphasia. These conditions are classified as more debilitating because it significantly interferes with how people interact with others. However, music therapy can also be used on those with a psychological or physical disorder. Therefore, someone who is suffering from an anxiety disorder or a physical disability may be able to participate in both forms of therapy.

There are many benefits from both art therapy and music therapy. For patients who have used art therapy, common goals that were achieved included, relaxation, stress relief, insight on emotions, and better communication between loved ones. For individuals who use art therapy as a grieving mechanism, it has been found that art becomes a creative tool for sharing memories in addition to help cope.

Music therapy patients tend to achieve the same goals. After a session music therapy patients may have a more positive mood or feel more relaxed. For patients who are using music therapy for dementia, the music therapist may sing certain songs to help recall old memories.

Some patients with physical disabilities could benefit from these treatments as well. Art therapy may be a little more challenging because it requires movement of the arms. Therefore, this would be a good treatment for a paraplegic, but maybe not a quadriplegic. Individuals with physical disability would receive mental health benefits. Physical benefits would include better control of motion, since they would have to have control of a paintbrush, maker, or another art tool.

On the other hand, anyone can participate in music therapy. For those with physical disabilities, music can help by improving movement and range of motion. A music therapist may tell a patient to dance, sway, clap, or even play an instrument like a tambourine to encourage movement.

How To Choose the Right Treatment

Which one is best for you?

Now that all of the benefits and some of the conditions that can be treated have been introduced, you can decide which one is best for you.

looking at the back of an older woman  ho is using painting on a piece of paper with headphones on
Depending on your condition, why not try both? Image courtesy of Music and Memory.

In most health conditions, both art and music therapy can help bring empowering results. For more information on music therapy visit Incadence.org.

Edited by Cara Jernigan on January 17, 2021

Lydia Bernardo
Lydia enjoys playing piano and spending time outside.
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