Term Paper: Music Therapy

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Music therapy has become more accepted in recent years as a form of dealing with stress, illness and facilitating better overall health in all age groups. A working definition of music therapy is, "...a branch of health care designed to aid physical and emotional health through the use of music, either with listening, song writing, performing, exploring lyrics or other activities related to music" (Scott). It should be noted that the above definition makes reference to the various ways in which music therapy can be useful in enhancing both physical, emotional and mental health through the a myriad of activities that can be seen to be related to music.

An aspect of music theory that has also been pronounced in recent years is its effective use among the elderly, which will be discussed in more detail in this paper. Music therapy is very often incorporated into stress management programs and schedules. It is also used in addition to physical therapy and exercise as means of enhancing health. A more formal definition of this form of therapy from the Music Therapy Association is, "Music therapy is the systematic application of music to aid in the treatment of physiological and psychological aspects on an illness or disability. (Music Therapy)

While the acceptance of music therapy is a particularly modern addition to the various health treatments and therapies in the Western world, in fact music has been recognized for centuries for its healing and health-giving properties. There are many references in history to the healing and tension-reducing powers inherent in various musical forms. This can be seen, for example, in the 16th century work by Robert Burton, entitled, the Anatomy of Melancholy. Burton refers in this work to the way that music was beneficial in treating mental illness. (Anatomy of Melancholy). Music was also used extensively in the East, particularity in India and China for health purposes. (Penko) in a more contemporary study on the subject of music and healing in the contemporary health care environment, a 2006 study by Michael J. Crawford found that "... music therapy helped schizophrenic patients." (Black bile)

The origins of modern music therapy can be traced back to 1950s, where the discipline of music theory was formally developed in many countries. One of the reasons for this was the effective use of music in the recuperation of injured and ill soldiers. "This formalization was partly due to the strong, positive physical and emotional responses injured soldiers in veteran's hospitals around the country showed after volunteer musicians played for them"

Kerr).

2. Music therapy in the modern healthcare environment

Many modern health practitioners are of the opinion that music can have a significant and far-reaching effect on the physiological and psychological aspects of human health. As one study notes, music can be very effective in producing a very deep and healing state of relaxation and in the process, reduce stress and even promote sleep. Music can also be used to assist one in improving...self-esteem and furthering an individual's personal growth and development, transformation.

Henshaw)

There are also studies which indicate that music therapy has a positive effect not only on stress and anxiety but also on diseases and conditions such high blood pressure or hypertension; Alzheimer's disease; substance abuse problems; acute and chronic pain; heart attack and cerebral stroke (Oriental Music Treatment).

As a result of these and other findings, music has become an established part of the contemporary health environment and is no longer seen as being strange or medically suspect. Music therapy is well recognized as a way of boosting the essential immune and defense mechanism of the body through its uplifting, meditative and claming qualities. "... music and music activities or interventions and builds on the power of music, using music in a focused and concentrated way for healing..."(Complementary and Alternative Approaches to Biomedicine)

2. Scientific studies

While music therapy is still often regarded as being part of "alternative" medical practices, there is a growing body of scientific studies that have shown the effectiveness of this form of therapy through empirical research. One example of this is the finding that music therapy modulates neuroendocrine molecules in relation to stress. "...The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, melatonin, prolactin and biogenic amines (serotonin and catecholamines) are involved in altering functions of neuroendocrine substances in the brain in response to stressful inputs." (Bhat and Udupa, 2003).

While music theory is a relatively new discipline, it is receiving attention form many disciplines and specialist researchers in the healthcare field.

The therapeutic benefits of music have only recently been realized. Music therapy is an aspect of alternative mind-body medicine that is gradually gaining acceptance among medical professionals it is known to have a soothing psychosomatic effect on terminally ill patients and reduce anxiety associated with the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. (Bhat and Udupa, 2003).

There are also many studies that show a positive response to music theory in many serious diseases and ailments. A study led by Dr. Frederick Tims of Michigan State University (1999) on Alternative Therapies showed that "...patients with Alzheimer's disease who underwent four weeks of structured music therapy showed significant increases in their level of melatonin, a neurohormone linked with sleep regulation and believed to influence the immune system" (Synesael).

Music therapy also creates a relaxed atmosphere that is helpful in preparing patients for surgery. In a conference paper entitled Interdisciplinary Musical Sense for SOUL Development with Collaborative Learning, Sundar, and Sairam, (2006), the way that imagery prepares and helps the individual deal with illness is explained.

It has been found that the outcome of imagery and appropriate music could be manifold: heart rate could go up or down depending on them.

While BP could go up with fear/anger images, pain and/or anxiety before during and after surgery were found to be considerably decreased. Performance levels of athletics are also reported to be increased with appropriate music and imagery.

Sundar)

3. Music therapy and the elderly and geriatric

The above - mentioned positive attributes of music therapy could also be applied to the elderly. The way that music has been found to boost the immune system is an important aid to the elderly and infirm who are more prone to illness and diseases. As has already been mentioned, music therapy has been found to be helpful in treating conditions and illnesses that are often encountered among the elderly; for example, the effectiveness of this form of therapy for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease.

The use of this form of therapy among the aged has also shown that it is successful in "...maintaining or improving the well-being of people who have had strokes: as well as in the elderly who suffer from forms of mental illness and dementia. (Music Therapy and Older Adults) Among the many positive effects of music therapy in this age group are the following: Increased participation in activities as well improved social interaction. Therapy has also been associated with an increase in alert responses and a decrease in signs of agitated behavior observed in elderly patients. This is also combining with a reduction in depressive symptoms as well as ".... Improved speech content and fluency and self-image" (Music Therapy and Older Adults). This in turn relates to improved self - esteem as well as self - expression in the elderly which improves the quality of life and aids in maintaining mental and physical functioning.

4. Conclusion

In summary, music therapy, whether it is listening to music or actively participating on music for example in choirs, has been proven to have a definite and positive effect on individuals. More importantly, the use of music in therapy has been shown to improve health and to increase the effectiveness of the immune systems functions. This form of therapy has consequently been acknowledged by the medical fraternity as… [END OF PREVIEW]

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