Listening to a song you love makes you feel good, right?
In a very basic way, that’s what music therapy is and how it can help.
Music therapy involves trained professionals playing music to support health and well-being, using songs to meet emotional, communicative, physical, social and spiritual needs.
It can involve playing instruments, drumming or writing songs; it’s appropriate for people of all ages and cognitive abilities and can not only make people feel better, stronger and less stress, it can help distract the brain and bring a better sense of calm.
Music therapy has been shown to be an effective treatment for people suffering from Parkinson’s or living with Alzheimer’s. Studies and anecdotal evidence have found situations in which people with memory issues, brain injuries, dementia or Alzheimer’s might be struggling to find a word or phrase but have no trouble singing or playing an entire song from their younger days.
March 1 is World Music Therapy Day, designed to shine a light on music therapists and the ability of music to make life better and more fulfilling.
“Music therapists use various active and receptive intervention techniques according to the needs and preferences of the individuals with whom they work,” the Canadian Association of Music Therapists says. “These techniques include, but are not limited to, the following: Singing is a therapeutic tool that assists in the development of articulation, rhythm and breath control. Singing in a group setting can improve social skills and foster a greater awareness of others. For those with dementia, singing can encourage reminiscence and discussions of the past, while reducing anxiety and fear. For individuals with compromised breathing, singing can improve oxygen saturation rates. For individuals who have difficulty speaking following a stroke, music may stimulate the language centres in the brain promoting the ability to sing.”
It’s more than just singing, though: playing instruments can improve motor skills and build cooperation and attention practices; activities based in rhythm can boost a person’s range of motion and joint agility; improvising can be a non-judgmental activity for expressing thoughts and feelings through sounds and noises; the list goes on.
“Where words fail or emotions are too hard to express, music can fill the void,” CAMT says.