Music Therapy Helps Patients With Recovery

Many people have been seeking relief for various ailments and conditions using music therapy. Professionals are starting to us different disciplines of music therapy often to help their patients and clients. It is now common for doctors, social therapists, psychologists, and even social workers to use this new age therapy.

Studies have theorized that in when music therapy is combined with other disciplines of therapy improvements in patient conditions happen more rapidly. It appears music influences different parts of the brain. It can be extremely powerful for stirring emotions and social interactions. Have you ever noticed how a piece of classical music can make you cry? Do you wonder why music is always played at social gatherings and parties? These are just common instances to show how strong music’s influence on us can be. To a patient say suffering from stroke, music opens them up emotionally and helps to motivate them. Stroke victims are often depressed and unmotivated to work on their conditions. Music can get them out of their negative mood.

A patient’s condition will often dictate the type of musical therapy they are involved with. Some might learn an instrument to receive positive benefits from the therapy. Others might just have specific music playing lightly in the background while they work on a physical therapy or other motor skill oriented therapy. Stroke patients who have lost the capacity to speak can be taught to speak again using a singing speech therapy. So the method of music therapy used is influenced by each patient’s personal need.

Music is also influential on physical movement. The whole idea of dancing shows how strong this influence can be. This tie between emotion and physical influence is being used with great result while working with patients recovering for lost of motor skills. While working with a patient on a treadmill, music is played and stroke patients prove to be more motivated to move. Experiments have been done using regular treatment with no music and then using the same treatment with music. When the music was used, there was more improvement. Part of this improvement is believed to have happened because the music was synced “in time” to the patient’s footfalls. The patients stayed in time to the rhythmic sounds and showed vast improvements in all aspects of their recovery. Traditional therapy by itself did not show the same level of improvement.

While music as therapy has shown to be effective in some cases, there is still much research to be done with it. Each patient has specific physical and previous psychological conditions that affect the result this therapy can have on their recovery. The timetable in which music therapy is used towards the start of the ailment can play in the therapy’s effectiveness. For example if a person was socially more awkward before treatment began, that patient would see more positive results with the addition of music. Patients who had music therapy started immediately after injury or stroke also saw greater result. Therefore, further study is needed to pinpoint how effective musical therapy is.

Going forward music as therapy is a good tool. While illnesses and disabilities cannot be cured by it, for those willing to embrace its power, there can be benefit. It is frequently being used in recovery centers, hospitals, and retirement establishments. Children have seen benefit when music is used to improve social, motor, and relaxation skills. Music therapy is proving another important element in helping people cope with life.

FAQ – What Happens in a Music Therapy Assessment?

I am often asked this question several times a month by teachers and parents. They have children in school with disabilities who have been recommended for a music therapy evaluation, but many of them have not been exposed to music therapy and sometimes do not even know that it exists, especially in their school district. I have always been happy to give them a brief description of what I do when I come to see their child for the music therapy assessment.

Music therapy assessments take many different forms and may include different elements depending on the therapeutic setting. Music therapy in the public schools, for example, is partially governed by state and federal guidelines. It is considered a related service and a music therapist is part of a team of teachers and therapists who work with a student according to an Individual Education Plan (IEP). An Admission, Review, and Dismissal (ARD) committee must obtain consent from the parent or guardian to ask for a music therapy assessment in order to begin the process.

Music therapy assessment procedures will vary between types of client populations, but there are several key areas that should be considered when conducting any music therapy assessment. An assessment should include a review of the client history, including origin of disabilities, medical or psychosocial issues, current therapeutic strategies and existing goals. The assessment will also gather remarks and observations from teachers, staff, and parents about how they have seen the student respond to music at school or at home. The majority of an assessment should be comprised of a comparison between client responses during music and during regular activities that do not normally include music.

Music therapy assessments in the public school setting require that the evaluator look for significant or unique differences in client performance on specific objectives as described in their IEP. I explain to teachers and parents that the assessment should take place in the client’s main classroom or wherever therapy would be conducted. The assessment process including consulting with staff, observation of the client in the classroom, and music activities usually takes from one to two hours. In order to accurately assess a client’s responses to the specially developed music activities, the therapist will choose several specific areas of need as described by teachers, parents and the IEP objectives to address during the assessment.

The music therapist should try and observe the client working in the classroom through several different activities. During this time, the therapist can obtain an overall sense of how the client participates with peers and interacts with teachers and work tasks. The therapist will be looking for patterns in expressive and receptive communication, general ability to focus attention and follow directions, and some indication of academic abilities. The client should also be observed working on specific IEP objectives so that data may be collected and used for comparison with data gathered from work during music therapy activities.

The music therapist will conduct a music therapy session with the client that will last twenty to thirty minutes. During this time, the therapist will typically use an acoustic guitar as the primary accompaniment instrument unless a piano or other client preferred instrument are available and more appropriate. Other instruments such as hand drums, shakers, and bells are used throughout the session as both accompaniment and for active engagement with the client. Age appropriate songs and music activities with supportive visual aids will be used to address specific IEP objectives. The music therapy session may be structured similarly to other music therapy sessions which include an opening and closing song along with the specific music activities that were chosen to address the student’s IEP objectives. A comparison will be made between the student’s behavior and performance in the non-musical setting and the structured music activities. The comparison of data will then determine the significance and/or uniqueness of music strategies in helping the student to make progress on targeted IEP objectives.

This outlines a music therapy assessment process for a child in the public school. The conclusion of the assessment will result in an official recommendation to the ARD committee explaining how the client does or does not require music therapy services in order to make adequate progress on IEP objectives. The ARD committee must take the recommendation under consideration and decide upon the implementation of services and, if approving music therapy, determine the amount of time the student will receive therapy.

How Does Music Therapy Relate to Bipolar Disorder?

“A mental disorder is a classified as a clinically significant behavioral or psychological syndrome that occurs and that is associated with present distress or disability or with a significantly increased risk of suffering death, pain, disability, or an important loss of freedom.” (Peters, 2000). Although mental disorders may have a variety of manifestations and degrees of severity, they all are characterized by persistent, abnormal patterns of problem behaviors. These clients are sometimes described as having behavior disorders or behavioral disorders. Mental illnesses and disorders traditionally have been classified into two broad categories of neuroses and psychoses. A neurosis is a mental disorder primarily characterized by anxiety. This anxiety may be experienced directly and be the main manifestation of the disorder or it may be unconsciously controlled or modified to produce other distressing symptoms. A psychosis is a more severe mental disorder that is primarily characterized by loss of contact with reality. Individuals who have psychoses have delusions, hallucinations and an impaired ability to test reality. For many, a mental disorder can hinder a person from keeping a job, family, relationships and sanity. The psychiatric problems that occur in adults are more likely to be associated with the stresses of everyday adaptation or a more chronic reaction resulting from distress over a longer period of time. What many people don’t know is that someone can in fact live a relatively normal life with the help of many therapies, such as music therapy to be specific.

“Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks.” (2008). Symptoms of bipolar disorder are severe. They are different from the normal ups and downs that everyone goes through from time to time. Bipolar disorder symptoms can result in damaged relationships, poor job or school performance and even suicide. But bipolar disorder can be treated and people with this illness can lead full and productive lives. Bipolar disorder often develops in a person’s late teens or early adult years. At least half of all cases start before age 25. “In the acute phases of their illness, adults who have mental or behavioral disorders often display behaviors of intense confusion, agitation, excitability, fearfulness or withdrawal. They have a need to learn and develop positive coping mechanisms to deal with the stresses and responsibility of daily life.” (Peters, 2000). Some people have their first symptoms during childhood, while others may develop symptoms late in life. For example, Maria is a seventeen year old who has been suffering with bipolar disorder for two years. Her ups and down cycle average from two to three months. For the first couple of months, she is in a hypo maniac state where she goes out everyday, shops, spends excessive amounts of money, wears make up and loses a large amount of weight. The next couple of months she locks herself in her room, binge eats, gains weight, cries and completely cuts her connections with the outside world. Due to this unstable cycle, she has dropped regular school and had tried to take up homeschooling, lost all friends, unable to work for an allowance and feels worthless and hateful toward herself most of the time. Her battle with bipolar disorder has made it impossible for her to continue therapy for longer than a month at a time.

“During a depressive episode, the person has a persistent depressed mood (most of the day and nearly everyday) and several other symptoms such as diminished interest in activities that are generally enjoyable, changes in appetite or weight, changes in sleep patterns, agitation or lack of energy, feelings of worthlessness, difficulty concentrating, and thinking clearly and thoughts of suicide. Symptoms may develop at a time of personal crisis but people can also feel depressed for no apparent reason.” (Davis, 1999). Most of the time, the symptoms can be nothing mysterious and can have a minimal effect on a person’s life. But, overtime, the episodes can get increasingly worse for longer periods of time. In a severe state, a person can become psychotic and the episode can last for up to six months if it is left untreated.

“During a manic episode, people may have decreased need for sleep, their thoughts may race and they may be extremely talkative. They may engage in wild spending sprees or take on unrealistic tasks.” (Davis, 1999). For the most part, a manic episode can be just as hurtful to a person as a depressive episode, if not more. During these times of feeling up and energized, it may seem that a person does not need their medication and that can lead to many more issues to a person with bipolar disorder. While treating these times, it can also help the person from not making poor decisions and having to deal with the repercussions later on during a depressive episode. Many of these symptoms are also present in a hypo manic episode. A hypo manic episode is similar to a manic episode, but the symptoms may be experienced to a lesser extent and do not normally affect a person in their daily life.

“Music therapy is defined as a planned, goal-directed process of interaction and evaluation of individual client’s specific needs, strengths, and weaknesses, in which music or music-based experiences are specifically prescribed to be used by specifically trained personnel to influence positive changes in an individual’s condition, skills, thoughts, feelings, or behaviors.” (Peters, 2000). It is a process that takes place over time and involves growth, change, and development. The process of music therapy may include various musical, creative, artistic, therapeutic, developmental, educational, interpersonal, behavioral and scientific components as music therapist and client interact over time in both musical and non-musical areas. Under the direction of a trained music therapist, the music based experiences become potent therapeutic tools that can predictably and effectively influence positive changes in an individual’s condition, skills, thoughts, feelings or behaviors. Once a client has been assessed, evaluated, and individual therapeutic goals have been formulated, the music therapist designs a series of specific music and rhythm-based experiences that will help the client reach these goals and objectives. Music therapists often work directly with other professionals on medical or educational treatment teams. When they work in teams, these specialists meet together and decide how to coordinate their services in a way that will best help the client meet certain therapeutic goals. Treatment for psychiatric disorders often involves a combination of approaches and interventions including a structured environment, a regime of medication, a variety of psychotherapeutic interventions and a program of activity therapies. It is important to remember that individuals with mental disorders are unique and no one treatment or combination of treatments will be right for every person in therapy. Therapists who follow a humanistic approach give unconditional acceptance to the client with genuine caring, acceptance, understanding, and respect. The therapist helps the client move beyond defenses and mental or emotional blocks to confront the basic questions of life, find meaning and move to a higher level of functioning. Therapeutic techniques are experimental, oriented to building a trusting relationship, and are designed to help the client make choices, build an internal frame of reference and take personal responsibility to find purpose and meaning in life.

There are many songs that can be beneficial for people with bipolar disorder to listen to when going through a difficult time in their life. When choosing songs in a therapy environment, it is important to look at the lyrics to see if they are sending the right message to the clients. Some songs that would be beneficial for a therapist to use in a session are Keep Breathing, Empty Bottle, and A Birds Song by Ingrid Michaelson, It’s Only Life by Kate Voegel, If No One Will Listen by Keri Noble, Angel by Sarah McLaughlin, Amazing Grace, Beauty From Pain and Stand in the Rain by Superchick, Hope and Joy, On I Fight by Joy Ike, Give it Time by Jon McLaughlin, Keep Holding On by Avril Lavine, Lean on Me by Bill Withers, and Quiet Your Mind by Zac Brown Band. Each of these songs has inspiring lyrics to keep therapy enjoyable and encouraging. For relaxation purposes the songs Keep Breathing, Amazing Grace, and Angel are an excelled choice because of their simple melodies and graceful accompaniment that will enable you to focus on what is going on with you and will also enable you to do simple movement exercises. The songs Beauty From Pain, A Birds Song, Keep Holding On, On I Fight, Give It Time, If No One Will Listen, Quiet Your Mind, and It’s Only Life are a good choice for encouraging clients because of the lyrics saying how things will get better and how you have to keep pushing through all of the hard times that are in a clients way. The remainder of the songs is just good to have in therapy because of the messages that they give through the lyrics.

In conclusion, bipolar disorder can have crippling effects on people’s lives, but with music therapy, there can be hope. The field of adult psychiatry deals with preventing and treating mental, emotional and behavioral disorders in adults. Although psychiatric illnesses and disorders may vary greatly in severity and exact type of symptoms manifested, they all are characterized by persistent, abnormal, patterns of behavior. Music therapy is a non-invasive way to make connections with a therapist and communicate without being in an environment where it can be intimidating. With the right interventions and a good relationship with a therapist, the road of therapy can be very successful.