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How Can Music Therapy Improve Mental Health?

Discover how music therapy can help patients overcome many issues, including mental disorders here.

What Is Music Therapy?

Music therapy is a therapeutic approach that utilizes music and musical methods to help patients in a myriad of ways. Music therapy can help patients with mental health or substance abuse disorders, as well as those looking to promote overall wellness, alleviate stress, and even promote physical rehabilitation.

Many genres of music are used in music psychotherapy, and what type depends on the individual and their needs. Music therapists will use whatever instrument or style of music they think will best help the patient, meaning there’s not one common type of music therapy that is most utilized. Music therapy programs are tailored for each person.

Music Therapy

How Does Music Therapy Work?

Music therapists may have patients sing, write songs, dance, discuss music, or play instruments. These activities can help alleviate stress, improve mood, and help with overall well-being. Research has shown that music can regulate the body’s heart and breathing rate, along with stimulating brain waves and lowering blood pressure. 1

Difference Between Music and Sound Therapy

While these two practices may sound synonymous, they have multiple differences. Music therapy is a relatively new approach, whereas sound therapy has been around for centuries and is based on ancient Tibetan cultural practices.

Sound therapy focuses more on the frequency of sounds and music, whereas music therapy emphasizes making or creating music to alleviate symptoms. Certifications for both practices also greatly vary.

Different Types and Uses of Music Therapy

Even though music therapy, as a therapeutic practice, is still relatively new, there are multiple different types of music therapy and music therapy programs. Music therapists may utilize some of the following approaches during their sessions: 

  • Analytical music therapy
  • Benenzon music therapy
  • Community music therapy
  • Nordoff-Robbins music therapy
  • Vocal psychotherapy
  • Cognitive behavioral music therapy (CBMT)
  • Bonny method of guided imagery and music (GIM)

Uses of Music Therapy

There are numerous beneficial uses of music therapy. Not only can it help with physical and mental health problems, but it can also assist those who have a substance abuse disorder. Despite primarily being used as a mental health treatment aid, in recent years, it has shifted to help with substance abuse. One survey found that 19% of music therapists have helped patients with mental health and substance use disorders. 2

Research has shown that patients with substance abuse disorders—many of whom also had co-occurring mental health disorders—benefitted from music therapy. Multiple studies showed reduced drug cravings and increased motivation to abstain from substance use. In addition, patients who utilized music therapy activities generally had a more positive mood. 3

What Are the Benefits of Music Therapy?

Music healing therapy benefits multiple types of patients, including those with emotional, physical, holistic, cognitive, or social problems they want or need to improve. Furthermore, music therapy can be used alone or in conjunction with other types of therapy, such as psychotherapy and medication-assisted therapy.

Physically, music therapy has been shown to lower blood pressure, reduce pain, improve respiration, and help relax muscle tension throughout the body. For emotional and cognitive benefits, music therapists work to help reduce stress, improve mood, and help patients deal with potential side effects of mental health struggles. One study examining music therapy’s effectiveness in terminally ill patients with cancer reported that 68% of patients found music therapy helpful. 4

Using Music Therapy for Mental Health Improvement

Most notably, music therapy began being used to help treat mental health in soldiers after World War 1 and World War 2. Music therapy improves mental health by acting as a means to process emotions and trauma and as a calming agent for those who show symptoms of anxiety or mood dysregulation.

Music therapy programs are mainly outpatient, but many music therapists work in hospital settings to help those already in treatment.

What Do Music Therapists Do?

Music therapists help improve and maintain patients’ overall emotional or mental struggles by determining which approach will work best for each individual. Music therapists can work with people of any age, as music therapy activities have been shown to help all ages, ranging from infants to older patients.

Many music therapists specialize in one age group, so it’s important to research therapists before attending a program. For example, there are Alzheimer’s music therapy programs available for older patients.

When Should You Contact a Music Therapist?

Music therapy, while especially beneficial for those struggling with mental health or substance abuse disorders, can be beneficial for anyone looking to improve their overall mood and well-being. It can be utilized to assist other therapies, such as talk therapy, or as an alternative to therapies that did not improve symptoms. A medical professional may also refer patients to a music therapist if they think they could benefit from it alongside medication or other types of therapy. 

Music Therapy

Mental Health Recovery Using Music Therapy

Utilizing music therapy to aid mental health recovery is a great way to not only mitigate mental health symptoms but also help improve mood and behavior. 

Does Insurance Cover Music Therapy?

Depending on your insurance type, treatment program, or if you’ve received a referral from a doctor, some insurances will cover music therapy sessions. Therefore, it is best to contact your healthcare insurance provider to discuss your options and check if music therapy is covered.

What To Expect at a Music Therapy Session

Music therapy sessions will often begin with the therapist discussing your symptoms or other issues you are experiencing to determine the best course of action. Then, they will utilize various techniques during the session to help you heal. Some music therapy sessions only last for a week or two, while other programs continue for months, depending on the patient and their needs. 

Contact Genesis Recovery Today

Contact Genesis Recovery today if you or a loved one may benefit from music therapy. Our team of music therapists can help you overcome symptoms relating to substance abuse or mental health struggles by providing structured support and care. Alongside God’s help and guidance, we’re here to help you overcome the hardships you are facing, and music therapy might just work for you.


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