Whether it’s a jazzy number by Miles Davis or a calming Beethoven Sonata, the humming of a tune on your way to work, or the strumming of a guitar, music is often an escape igniting emotional and physical reactions.
So it’s no surprise there’s a growing trend among medical professionals to include music therapy as treatment for a variety of mental and physical conditions. Early research shows music therapy can help treat depression, alleviate pain and decrease pain perception, enhance memory and promote physical rehabilitation.
“It’s a way to engage with mind and body,” said President and Owner for the Center of Music Therapy Hope Young. “There is a very different feeling when I walk into a hospital with a guitar; there is an emotional combination with the spirit.”
Young established the Center of Music Therapy in Austin, Texas in 1990 and is a Board Certified Music Therapist. According to Young, there are about 4,000-6,000 certified music therapists practicing in the U.S. Music therapy has grown since its first professionalized conception in 1944 into a field that now is included at 99 universities as a degree program.
Music therapy can incorporate a wide variety of activities, taking into account of the patient’s level of participation. Some will enjoy laying back and listening, some will want to pick up a guitar, bang on drums, sing, or tap a tambourine. Others may even want to compose. The most important part of the therapy is that patient should enjoy the music they are playing. For some, that may mean heavy metal to others opera.
Licensed Professional Counselor for El Paso’s Center for Expressive Therapy Scott Pelking uses music therapy techniques to assist his clients with various conditions. “Music is extremely personal,” said Pelking. “Tone, composition, lyrics that are encouraging to the listener or the musician is very helpful for dealing with life’s threats. There are some things you cannot express through words.”
As the field of music therapy grows and gains momentum, so will physicians’ referrals. For many, that may be music to their ears. Young says she encourages resources to provide music therapy in hospitals, hospice, and out-patient will continue because it is a valuable treatment for many undergoing procedures, and facing other conditions.
“And even if you can find music therapy, don’t give up on music,” said Young. “Use it - tap your toes and clap your hands - make it a part of your life.