• Dana Glackin

Use Music to Jazz-up Your Well Being



For over 35,000 years, humans have used instruments to express themselves.¹ Creating and listening to music provides an outlet for people’s emotions and a way to share stories. 

The use of music in therapy channels all of the positive benefits that music has to improve mental health and well being. Current research on music therapy is underdeveloped, but so far studies have found that it is extremely beneficial.²


Music Therapy

Music therapy is defined as the professional use of music by individuals and groups who want to improve their well-being.³ There are many different forms of music therapy, including analyzing lyrics, writing songs, and improvisation⁴.


Listening to music is an activity that most everyone likes, so it is not surprising that that music therapy has high levels of perceived enjoyment.⁵ The combination of listening to music, which is a pleasurable activity, and therapy maximizes the benefits of the treatment.⁶


The use of music in therapy allows an individual to express their emotions in a different way than usual.⁷ It has the ability to improve attention, problem solving ability, communication, and feelings of self-worth.⁸ Group music therapy can help to promote and develop social and problem solving skills as well.⁹


There are two main types of music therapy used. The first is active music therapy, which is making music.¹⁰ The second type is receptive, which is receiving music.¹¹


Active 

Active music therapy involves both the therapist and patient re-producing existing music or using improvisation techniques to create music.¹² The creation of music helps individuals generate ideas and opinions.¹³ In addition, creating music reduces stress.¹⁴ 


Therapists and patients create songs and lyrics that evoke emotions and provide insights into the patients emotional and relational problems.¹⁵ When emotions are brought to the surface during sessions, the therapist helps the patient to work through and understand the emotions they experience.

In addition, improvisation can trigger anxious thoughts or negative emotions that can improve once they are addressed.¹⁶


Receptive

Receptive music therapy is listening to music.¹⁷ Everyone has listened to music when they are feeling happy or sad to try and regulate or address their mood. 


Listening to the music causes people to experience emotional changes.¹⁸ When these changes occur, the individual can work through the emotions they are feeling with their therapist present, the same as they can with active therapy.



Mental Health Benefits

Research has shown that music therapy has many mental health benefits for a variety of afflictions. It is associated with a decrease in anxiety, depression, and stress.¹⁹ 


When an individual listens to music , the area of the brain associated with attention, processing, and emotional states is activated.²⁰ Happiness from listening to music causes a release of dopamine (the “feel good” neurotransmitter) and a decrease in cortisol levels (the stress hormone).²¹


The two disorders that will be focused on are depression and substance abuse. However, the positive effects of music therapy extends beyond these two conditions. For example, drum circles helped people with PTSD to form connections and bonds with the people in their groups.²² Music is a great common language and way to unite people.


Depression

Depression affects 300 million people worldwide.²³ Finding treatment that is effective can be very difficult for some individuals. Music therapy is a different method that can be used to help those suffering from depression who are struggling to find a treatment that works for them. 


The use of music therapy allows patients who are depressed to gain insight into their emotional problems by discussing the lyrics of music.²⁴


Patients who used music therapy experienced a greater reduction of depression symptoms than individuals who just went to therapy.²⁵ They also saw improvements in their mood.²⁶


Substance Abuse

Music therapy also has profound effects for individuals suffering from substance abuse. Those who engage in music therapy are more likely to be willing to participate in treatment for substance.²⁷


Sessions of music therapy are effective at countering withdrawals and cravings that are experienced.²⁸ Music is also source of motivation and empowerment, which is very helpful for substance abusers, who often experience a lack of motivation.²⁹ Discussing musical lyrics helps patients to better understand their relationship with substances and develop coping strategies.³⁰


Finally, drumming is known to help people relax, and is especially helpful for patients who have had relapse.³¹ 


So, the next time you catch yourself singing along to your favorite song, try and think about why you love the song so much. Do the lyrics speak to you? Do you love the rhythm and beat? Do you play it to boost your mood when you are having a bad day?

Music is a very powerful tool, and we are just starting to fully understand all of the benefits that it carries.


Endnotes

  1. Fallon, V. T., Rubenstein, S., Warfield, R., Ennerfelt, H., Hearn, B., & Leaver, E. (2020). Stress reduction from a musical intervention. Psychomusicology: Music, Mind, and Brain, 30(1), 20–27. https://doi-org.ezproxy.middlebury.edu/10.1037/pmu0000246

  2. Trimmer, C., Tyo, R., Pikard, J., McKenna, C., & Naeem, F. (2018). Low-intensity cognitive behavioural therapy-based music group (CBT-Music) for the treatment of symptoms of anxiety and depression: A feasibility study. Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy, 46(2), 168–181. https://doi-org.ezproxy.middlebury.edu/10.1017/S1352465817000480

  3. Aalbers, S., Fusar-Poli, L., Freeman, R. E., Spreen, M., Ket, J. C., Vink, A. C., Maratos, A., Crawford, M., Chen, X. J., & Gold, C. (2017). Music therapy for depression. The Cochrane database of systematic reviews, 11(11), CD004517. https://doi.org/10.1002/14651858.CD004517.pub3

  4. Aletraris, L., Paino, M., Edmond, M. B., Roman, P. M., & Bride, B. E. (2014). The use of art and music therapy in substance abuse treatment programs. Journal of Addictions Nursing, 25(4), 190–196. https://doi-org.ezproxy.middlebury.edu/10.1097/JAN.0000000000000048

  5. Hohmann, L., Bradt, J., Stegemann, T., & Koelsch, S. (2017). Effects of music therapy and music-based interventions in the treatment of substance use disorders: A systematic review. PloS one, 12(11), e0187363. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0187363

  6. Trimmer et al. 2018

  7. Hohmann et al. 2017

  8. Aalbers et al. 2017

  9. Hohmann et al. 2017

  10. Aalbers et al. 2017

  11. Ibid

  12. Trimmer et al. 2018

  13. Aalbers et al. 2017

  14. Fallon et al. 2020

  15. Trimmer et al. 2018

  16. Erkkilä, J., Brabant, O., Saarikallio, S., Ala-Ruona, E., Hartmann, M., Letulė, N., Geretsegger, M., & Gold, C. (2019). Enhancing the efficacy of integrative improvisational music therapy in the treatment of depression: study protocol for a randomised controlled trial. Trials, 20(1), 244. https://doi.org/10.1186/s13063-019-3323-6

  17. Aalbers et al. 2017

  18. Trimmer et al. 2018

  19. Aletraris et al. 2014

  20. Fallon et al. 2020

  21. Ibid

  22. Ibid

  23. Aalbers et al. 2017

  24. Ibid

  25. Aletraris et al. 2014

  26. Trimmer et al. 2018

  27. Aletraris et al. 2014

  28. Hohmann et al. 2017

  29. Ibid

  30. Ibid

  31. Aletraris et al. 2014