Have you ever turned on a song, or an album, on a bad day because it made you feel better?
Do you use music to help block out the world, maybe to help concentrate on an important task when your thoughts seem scattered?
Has music been used as a tool to take you back to a happier time, or to help reconnect with memories?
Those are all ways in which music is used as a therapeutic tool.
March is Music Therapy Awareness Month, a time to shine a light on the actual proven power of music to improve mood, concentration, help steady nerves and myriad other things.
The Canadian Association of Music Therapists says music therapy is “a discipline in which certified music therapists (MTAs) use music purposefully within therapeutic relationships to support development, health and well-being. Music therapists use music safely and ethically to address human needs with cognitive, communication, emotional, musical, physical, social and spiritual domains.”
Music strikes such a deep, personal space for something that is often shared, by friends, in a group or by hundreds if not thousands of people in a concert setting. But it’s also something that can help us deal with our emotions, help alleviate pain and stress and can help us work through difficult times. It can be utilized to help navigate challenges, including mental health and neurological disorders.
The Cleveland Clinic states that music therapy can be used to help provide medical aid, including lowering blood pressure, improving communication and social skills, fostering better self-reflection, reducing tense muscles and easing strain, the ability to regulate thoughts and emotions running on adrenaline or fear, improved motivation, decreased pain and increased joy.
Music therapy, perhaps surprisingly, was first defined and utilized by the War Department of the United States in 1945, during World War II, to help soldiers who were spending time in military hospitals. It was used for their occupational therapy, education, physical reconditioning and as a form of recreation.
We’ve also seen the videos of people in assisted living facilities listening to music from their youth; among the most powerful is the video of a woman who had been a prima ballerina, whose advanced age and Alzheimer’s had made her nearly still and silent, begin to move her arms in the way she had decades prior when dancing Swan Lake. It’s a beautiful testament to the power of music to unlock memories, even in those whose memories are fading.
We want to take a moment to thank the dedicated and passionate work of music therapists, for patiently and generously using their gifts to remind all of us of the healing power of music.
To help support the Canadian Music Therapy Fund, or to learn more about it, click here.