An Overview of Music Therapy and Anxiety

How This Increasingly Popular Form of Therapy Can Help Those with Anxiety and Stress in Their Everyday Lives

Each and every person deals with some form of stress in his or her daily life- whether it be at work, school, home, or a combination of the three. Life can be overwhelming, especially when we don’t take time for self care, which can quickly build up to anxiety. 

So how does one manage the stress that comes with life? There are plenty of methods people use to manage stress and anxiety- all it takes is to find the one that works for you. Some common methods to manage stress and anxiety that you may have heard of include exercise, meditation, journaling, and attending talk therapy.

Have you considered using music therapy to combat your anxiety? This form of therapy has been around for over 75 years, but has recently gained popularity in the media.

While many people have now heard of music therapy, most don’t know exactly what it is or how it works. 

In this post, we’ll be covering three topics related to music therapy and anxiety:

  • The practice of music therapy in general
  • Music therapy sessions and how they work
  • Using music therapy to relieve anxiety

What Even is Music Therapy?

As a reader, you may or may not be familiar with the practice of music therapy. By definition, music therapy involves maintaining physical, mental, and social well-being through the use of music and therapy techniques.

Music has been used as a wellness tool since song and dance were first created; This centuries-long concept has even been proved to positively impact your health. It was first studied in relation to psychological benefits beginning in the early 19th century. In 1950, the first professional organization for music therapists was created. Today, professionals are members of the American Music Therapy Association and accredited by the Certification Board of Music Therapy. To become a music therapist, an individual must first obtain either a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, or graduate from an equivalency program in music therapy. To become certified, he or she must then complete close to five hundred hours of work experience. 

Music therapy is more than just spending time listening to your favorite songs or albums. Also, music therapists are highly educated and trained in expressive therapy. Music therapy combines the benefits of music and cognitive therapy into one practice. 

There are many reasons people go to music therapy, one being that it can help with a variety of health issues: anxiety, depression, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's disease, chronic pain, and more. Research has shown that music therapy has a wide range of positive effects, making it useful to a large percentage of the population.

Overall, music therapy is a combination of psychological therapies and music used to positively impact a patient’s health.

What Does a Typical Session Look Like?

If you’re interested in trying music therapy to reduce your anxiety, you may first want to know what happens in a usual session. Sessions can be held either one-on-one or in groups.

First of all, it’s important to note that your music therapist will assess your needs and talk with you to determine what methods work best. 

There are a variety of techniques that music therapists might use during a session. One method is to play a song, and then discuss the memories and emotions that the client feels while the music plays. Talking about the feelings brought up by the song is an effective way to open up and work through both past and current stress.

Some other common music therapy techniques include:

  • Songwriting
  • Breathing exercises with music
  • Playing Instruments
  • Drumming to music

There are a large variety of other techniques that a music therapist might use; this list is only a few of the widely-used practices. 

The best way to figure out which of these methods are best for you is to work with your music therapist. You can try a variety of techniques with your therapist. Also, discussing which methods have helped your anxiety the most, and which haven’t worked as well is a great place to start. 

How Can Music Therapy Reduce My Anxiety?

So now you know the basics of music therapy and what a session looks like. But what are the benefits of music therapy for your stress or anxiety?

There are plenty of ways that music therapy can ease your anxiety:

  • For one, music releases endorphins in your body. Endorphins are hormones that affect the brain and are used to relieve pain and stress. By listening to and producing music in your music therapy session, your body will release those endorphins. Therefore, your stress will decrease simply by interacting with music.
  • Music therapy can also improve your communication skills specifically related to your emotions. As mentioned earlier, one common technique used in a music therapy session is to discuss memories and feelings brought up while listening to a song. By sharing your inner thoughts with your music therapist, opening up about your emotions should become easier over time. Being able to process and discuss emotions is a key factor in reducing anxiety.
  • Techniques in a music therapy session allow for you to release your emotions in a safe environment. Much like discussing your feelings with your music therapist, there are other creative outlets that allow you to let out any pent-up stress. Songwriting, singing, or moving to music are positive ways to work through emotions without directly discussing them.
  • Therapy sessions include methods that are just as enjoyable as they are helpful. Using a technique that you find to be fun is a great way to boost your overall mood. Just like having dinner with friends or getting a chance to binge-watch your favorite show, doing things you enjoy is a constructive way to shake off some of the anxiety you’ve been feeling. A positive mood is one tool that is essential in combating anxiety.

The benefits of music therapy for anxiety are endless, but this list describes a few of the ways music therapy can improve your mental health and well-being. Is has been proven that music boosts a person’s mood and releases endorphins.

The practice of music therapy has grown due to its many benefits in improving mental and physical wellness. Through specific techniques and practices, music therapy can reduce stress and anxiety through a number of ways. By working with a music therapist, you will quickly see changes in your stress levels, communication skills, overall mood, and much more. 

Are you interested in trying music therapy to reduce your anxiety? We have no doubt you’ll be happy with the results.

Last edit by Cara Jernigan on January 15, 2021

Mason Thompson
Mason Thompson is a high school senior, dog lover, and coffee enthusiast in Owensboro, Ky. She is thrilled to have completed a writing internship with Incadence during her final semester of high school. In the Fall she is excited to begin Brown University with a major in psychology with addition studies in women's and gender studies and sociology. Following her internship, She has stayed on the Incadence staff and is hopeful her writing will continue to help inform individuals about music therapy and healthcare.
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