Does Music Therapy Really Work?

Updated June 17, 2024by MyTherapist Editorial Team
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Everyone has some type of music that they enjoy. You may like jazz or rap or rock or country, and maybe your best friend or partner likes something entirely different. The specifics of which type of music you enjoy listening to aren’t important; however, if you’re looking for an alternative form of therapy that can help you in a way that’s different from what you’ve probably seen before, then music therapy is something you should consider. Ahead, we’ll explain how music therapy works, the types of conditions and symptoms that may be improved upon through music therapy, and the best resource for participating in online music therapy.

What is music therapy?

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Music therapy involves using music to name and process emotions

Music therapy has been proven, through scientific research, to make a difference in the lives of many people with a range of different mental health conditions. It’s about promoting overall wellness, alleviating pain, improving communication, improving physical rehabilitation, learning to express feelings, enhance memory and even managing stress. These are each areas where music therapy has had a positive impact on people. Whether you use it as a singular form of therapy for a mental health condition or as a supplement to other forms of therapy and/or medication, music therapy can make a significant difference in your life.

What do music therapists treat?

One of the great aspects of music therapy is that a diverse range of people may gravitate toward it. Music therapists use music to address physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs of all kinds of individuals. There are several types of issues and disorders that you can treat with music therapy:

  • Mental health disorders like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

  • Substance use disorders

  • Developmental and learning disabilities like autism spectrum disorder

  • Neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease

  • Identity crisis 

  • Trauma and complicated grief

  • Chronic pain

Music therapy has been used in a variety of contexts, as well. You’ll find music therapists working correctional settings, hospitals, pain clinics, schools, and community programs. With this type of therapy, you create a strong relationship with your therapist and compound that with the addition of music to aid in emotional, cognitive, and social development.

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What to expect for your first music therapy session

Your music therapist will examine your strengths and your needs and then help you to work through them using music. You may listen to music, dance, sing or even write your songs or musical arrangements. The skills and capabilities that you develop will continue to transfer into different areas of your life and help you learn better ways of communication. In fact, that’s the primary area where music therapy is a benefit because it allows people to create a new way to communicate.

The important thing with music therapy is that it’s not about the type of music that you like. It’s actually about a new way of learning how to listen and understand. Whether you like the specific style doesn’t affect how you achieve the benefits. You should also know that you don’t need to have any kind of musical ability to see results from this type of therapy. That’s because it’s not about how good of a singer, dancer or composer you are. Instead, it is all about the action. 

The overall point of music therapy is to express yourself and process emotions. Different types of music may be used during the treatment process, and the things you like may help you to achieve even more benefits over the long term.

It’s also worth reminding that music therapy can have benefits for people even if they are not living with a mental health diagnosis. Have you ever felt stressed during a normal day and turned on your favorite song to sing along or dance and immediately felt better? Maybe you’ve heard a song on the radio, and it made you smile or cry or laugh. These types of reactions are completely normal, and just about everyone has them to different songs. You may be surprised just how strong your reactions are to different songs, and it can happen whether you like the words or not. 

Is online music therapy an option?

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Music therapy involves using music to name and process emotions

If you think that music therapy might be the way to go for you, then it’s a great time to start looking for someone to help you along that path. Not every therapist or mental health professional uses music in therapy. Finding one that does is going to be the first step in the process. Make sure you let your potential therapist know that you’re interested in trying this type of therapy and that you want to know more about it.

On MyTherapist, you’ll be able to connect with an experienced professional who is willing to help you try out music therapy for yourself and see how it can make a difference in your life. You may be surprised at just how good of an asset it can be to you. With this service you’re going to have a completely online process of getting in touch with your therapist and being present for all of your therapy appointments. Users can schedule virtual sessions at convenient times and engage in music-related activities – like playing a piano or interpreting song lyrics – with their dedicated online counselor.

You should also be aware that various research studies reveal how online music therapy is not only effective, but often more efficacious in improving patient symptoms when compared with traditional, in-person therapy. Regardless of your goals or questions, music in and of itself has additionally been shown to strengthen the therapeutic alliance between a counselor and their client.

Takeaway

If you speak with people who have engaged in music therapy, they may have a broad range of reasons why it helped them make powerful strides in their lives. For some, music therapy provides a way to express themselves without words, which can aid in cultivating intimacy and secure attachments. Others found music therapy techniques to be useful when striving to manage stress. If you feel excited about the possibilities music therapy might bring, don’t hesitate to reach out to a licensed music counselor at MyTherapist today.

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