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The Healing Power of Music: A Look into the Practice of Musical Therapy

By Tess Buckley

When we are hurting, we may reach for a pill bottle or the doctor’s number, but as we have learned over the years there are alternatives to heal both the body and the mind. The three-legged stool to medicine acknowledges that when we heal the body (often with western medicine) we must also take care of our mind and soul through alternative practices. The "Three Legs of the Stool, are composed of three distinct but related sets of principles and values: Recovery, Trauma-Informed Care and Medication Optimization with allied health paths.” Musical Therapy is seen as an allied health profession, "[as] the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional.” Music therapists assess emotional well-being, physical health, social functioning, communication abilities, and cognitive skills through musical responses; design music sessions for individuals and groups based on client needs using music improvisation, receptive music listening, song writing, lyric discussion and more.

Remember that one song you sang in middle school that you still remember all the words to? Isn’t it wild that someone can turn the radio on a song you haven’t heard for years, plays, then you remember all the words? This is an example of how our minds remember words when they are paired with melodies.

Do you have a song that reminds you of a specific moment? A special person? A time and place from long ago? This is an example of how music holds memories and moments that are sometimes forgotten.

Music Therapy has been proven to reduce stress and promote relaxation. It's been shown to be more effective than prescription drugs in reducing anxiety levels before surgery. A study published in 2017 found that a 30-minute music therapy session combined with traditional care after spinal surgery reduced pain. Music can also help to express your emotions without having to speak. Now you can imagine how this may be useful in patients with Alzheimer’s or dementia and also for individuals with autism.

In Action: Suite Melody Care

Suite Melody Care encourages talented, young musicians to give back to their communities by sharing themed, interactive performances with audiences in hospitals, long-term care facilities, and retirement residences. SMC believes music activates emotions, stimulates memories, relieves symptoms, and gives hospital patients something to focus on other than the pain they are experiencing. This organization has 5 chapters and supports over 1000 active volunteers who perform annually.

To Learn More:

Here are some videos that show the impact of music on memory and healing:

The Impact of Musical Therapy:

What a Music Therapy Lesson Can Look Like:

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