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Music as Therapy

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What is music therapy?

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What is music therapy?

In formal terms, music therapy is the use of musical strategies under the guidance of a certified music therapist to help with psychological, physical and educational issues, among others. In normal speak, music therapy isn’t just something to help you cope with the daily stresses of life (though music can certainly help with that), but is an alternative treatment for youth with mental health issues, for youth living with grief or addiction, or for high-risk or at-risk youth, for example. Because music is such an important part of adolescent and young adult life, therapy with a musical twist may be a safer, more open and more understandable way to help bring about change.

What’s the point?

For starters, music therapy has been found to:

  • Positively affect mood
  • Improve self-esteem and self-confidence
  • Open up feelings and communication to resolve deep-seated issues
  • Boost focus and attention
  • Increase social skills
  • Benefit those with emotional trauma, mental health issues, abusive relationships, and more.
What if we don’t like the music?

Humans are basically wired to respond to music. (Not liking music is, in fact, one such response, but do you really not like music or have you just not found the right music? We’re guessing the latter.) Music therapists tailor the music to your needs and preferences. And you don’t have to be a musician to take part in music therapy. Although playing instruments, improvising and composing are strategies to try, they aren’t the only ones. You can also participate by singing, doing rhythm-based or image-based activities, songwriting, and simply listening to music.

Can’t I just listen to my own playlist

Listening to music on your own is a great step, but music therapy involves, well, therapy. You work with a professional with clinical experience who assesses your situation, comes up with a treatment plan, works with you during sessions, logs your progress and adjusts as necessary – all those typical therapy things, but with a little more rhythm to beat the blues, or whatever your specific needs may be.

This Goes Way Back

This Goes Way Back

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Think the idea of putting earbuds in your ears and de-stressing to your favourite tracks is new? Okay, the earbuds are new, but music has been mixing with medicine for thousands of years!

Back before we used writing to communicate, music was used as part of spiritual rituals. Healers and priests had a bunch of songs they’d sing depending on what ailed you. These were meant to communicate with powerful spirits who could send along a cure. There was even a song back in the days of 4000 BC – Codex Haburami, or Hallelujah to the Healer – that priests and musicians performed in thanks. 

Around 2000 BC, Ancient Egyptians and Assyrians were still turning to the supernatural through song or incantations to drive out disease-causing spirits. Evil spirits were also thought to cause problems of the mind, and music was thought to help. Around 1000 BC, David (the guy who battled Goliath) played the harp for King Saul to relax his mental state. 

As science superseded the supernatural, legendary Greek philosophers had some things to say about music as medicine. Around 500 BC, Pythagoras (yes, the triangle guy) linked the harmony of music with the harmony of the universe and the harmony of the mind. A hundred years later, Aristotle claimed music played a role in emotional catharsis and could positively impact our moods. 

From supernatural to science, music has had a long history in the healing arts. Today, we know music has a direct connection to our minds and moods, whether helping to relieve stress, to overcome a multitude of mental health issues, or to calm, focus and energize. Those new earbuds are just one more way we can take charge of our health and balance our brains.