Soothing Noises: A Look Into Music Therapy

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Biology 202

2006 Third Web Paper

On Serendip

Soothing Noises: A Look Into Music Therapy

Emily Lewis

For many injuries, one might undergo physical therapy. However, for
certain people, music is a necessary part of their therapy. Music Therapy is
defined as the "prescribed use of music, and the relationship that develops
through shared musical experiences, to assist or motivate a person towards
specific, non-musical goals."(1) Those who practice this therapy technique use
music to effect changes in communication, social, cognitive, and physical skills
as well as emotions.

For many people, music captures attention, and most kinds of music hold
a subject's attention. Listening to music makes use of many different parts of the
brain, making it possible for a person to respond to music in some way, even if
brain damage has occurred. For example, a person may not be able to process
the words of a song, but they find the tune soothing, and thus they calm down.

Music therapy is available to all age levels and no musical experience is
necessary for music therapy to work . Because anyone of any age can respond
to music but not everyone can communicate by writing or speaking, music
therapy is often used with younger children who cannot fully communicate yet or
people with aphasia. If the right kind of music is played for an Alzheimer's
patient, they may remember something for a bit longer, or recall something that
they could not previously remember. Even for those who are not Alzheimer's
patients, music is a good memory aide. It is not the "make your child get into
Harvard" trick that it was touted to be only a few years ago, but music can assist
people in memorizing many things, whether lines for plays, or note cards for

Persons who seem to respond particularly well to music therapy are those
with autism. The nonverbal, non threatening medium seems to encourage
attention and communication from the subjects. Many autistic children might sing
but not speak, making it easy for them to connect to the music. It also seems to
aid in autistic children remembering words and definitions. If a song is presented
about how to use silverware when eating, children are more likely to remember
how to do so.

For those with attention problems, music can be used to aid focusing.
Music adds some structure to time, making a long span of time seem shorter, or
vice versa. A friend of mine with Attention Deficit Disorder once explained to me
that she could only do work if music was playing. Otherwise, she said, she could
not focus as well, even with the aid of her medication.

In junior year of high school, I had surgery on my ankle and underwent
physical therapy for a time afterwards. My physical therapist said that I should
always have music playing when I did my exercises. I tried my exercises with
and without music, finding that my ankle moved better when I had the music on.
Why did this happen? Music, especially that with a good rhythm, stimulates
movement, and triggers our motor neurons, thus propelling our muscles. Music
was often what motivated me to do my exercises and kept me going as I went
through them.

Music therapy seems to be very effective when treating those who have
been abused, either physically or emotionally or both. Music can be used to set
up a trusting relationship between the therapist and the patient, as well as
encourage the patient to speak about his/her troubles and experiences.
Sometimes, it helps if the patient understands that songwriters and singers have
also had to go through the pain of domestic abuse, or a messy divorce. Thus,
songs like "Better man" by Pearl Jam or "Family Portrait" by Pink are useful in
treating patients. In "Better Man," the lead singer of Pearl Jam sings about his
mother, who he feels settled for a man who treated her abysmally, because she
believed she wouldn't find anyone else. "Family Portrait," on the other hand, is
sung from a child's perspective, as her family falls apart.

Whether young, old, suffering from a disease, or not, music therapy can
be useful to any person.

1)American Music Therapy Association
2)Autism and Music
3)Prelude Music Therapy

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