Music Therapy: The Creative Treatment

(Originally posted: March 23, 2017)



BRONX, NY- Music has always been a part of my life. During my childhood, I was surrounded by different genres that ranged from salsa to R&B. Each genre brought forward different emotions through lyrics, rhythm, composition, or the voice of the artist. The best time music assists me is when I need stress relief and a boost of creativity. I put on my headphones or blast the radio and lose myself for a while. Listening to music to kill stress is a form of music therapy. There are other health benefits to music therapy for a variety of things.

What is music therapy? The American Music Therapy Association defines it as “an established health profession in which music is used within a therapeutic relationship to address physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs of individuals.” There are two methods to music therapy: active and passive. Active music therapy “involves more interaction between the therapist and the patient,” while passive music therapy has the patient at rest while listening to the therapist.

During a music therapy session, therapists employ the following practices: improvisation, receptive music listening, creative song writing, lyric discussion, music with guided imagery, learning through music, singing, instrument playing, dancing, and performance. It is often combined with other forms of therapy such as speech therapy, nutritional therapy, and physical therapy.

The power of music can benefit an individual’s health through these following ways:

Reduces Anxiety and the Physical Effects of Stress

For those of us who use music to relax, this is a no brainer. Certain rhythms start a ripple effect in the brain to make someone feel good. Dr. Axe, a medical blogger, states that “music has the ability to cause immediate motor and emotional responses, especially when combining movement and stimulation of different sensory paths.” Try laying down in a comfortable space while listening to slow rhythmic music and taking deep breaths.

Diminishes Anxiety Before Procedures

Music therapy can be used to calm a patient before a procedure. Dentists recommend patients listening to music while they get certain procedures done in order to not hear the noises made by the dental tools. Surgeons also use music to relax a patient while anesthesia is administered. Ask a medical professional if you can listen to music to help you calm your nerves.

Helps with Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimer’s

Along with physical therapy, music therapy can help those who suffer from Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer's improve their balance and motor skills. Therapists use chord singing, voice exercises, and rhythmic movements to uplift the patient’s emotions to cope with the progressive worsening of their symptoms. It also helps stimulate their senses.

Reduces Depression and Other Symptoms in the Elderly

Dr. Axe explains “music therapy is now recommended in geriatric care settings due to how it helps improve social, psychological, intellectual, and cognitive performance of older adults.” It also helps with empathy, compassion and better relationship- centered care. The elderly can recall certain memories depending on the songs heard during their therapy sessions.

Reduces Symptoms of Psychological Disorders, Including Schizophrenia

Through musical improvisation, a patient can create a story. This helps them improve a variety of symptoms and express their emotions. Therapists ask patients to express themselves through a song in order to work on their vocalization and motor skills.

Improves Self-Expression and Communication

Music therapy allows a patient to feel flow experiences “when listening to the stimulating music and to learn how to better respond through verbal and nonverbal feedback based on changing music stimuli.” Dr. Axe also explains that this benefit of music therapy is most helpful for those who have autism or delayed speech as it enhances vocalization skills.

Enhances Fetal Development

The Alternative Daily explains that music played directly at the womb during late pregnancy can lead the baby to be more responsive to music, even after birth. Music influences positive neonatal behavior. Some babies can seem as if they are dancing within the womb while music is present.

Many non-profit organizations are using the above tools in order to to address physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs of their patients and clients, such as Music Beats Hearts. Music Beats Hearts is a non-profit organization that employs music therapy using the above methods to uplift the spirits of children and adults who are receiving intense treatments in hospitals such as chemotherapy, radiation, and dialysis. Each child gets an iPod with a playlist full of their favorite artists and motivational tracks. Music Beats Hearts is currently working on expanding their services to nursing homes.

Music therapy can used in a variety of ways to improve your health. From listening to music during a workout to enhancing motor skills in physical therapy, music is powerful. The next time you plug in your earbuds or headphones on, try doing some meditating breaths and feel the beat inside of you.


  1. Axe, Josh. “Music Therapy: Benefits And Uses For Anxiety, Depression, and More.” Dr. Axe Food is Medicine. 17 Feb, 2017.

  2. American Music Therapy Association. 17 Feb, 2017.

  3. Hills, Krista. “5 Amazing Benefits of Music Therapy.” The Alternative Daily. 17 Feb, 2017,

  4. Music Beats Hearts. 28 Feb, 2017.

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 Last Updated: July 26, 2019