By: Beth McHugh 2007
Music as a form of therapy is a powerful aid to stress release and is useful for a number of conditions including anxiety disorders, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, even autistic spectrum disorders.
The value of music therapy was first documented after WWII when doctors serving at medical outposts noticed that shell-shocked soldiers recovered more quickly and to a greater degree when exposed to the calming sounds of music.
Researchers have also used music to help the developmental progress of autistic children, but the field of music therapy has expanded from its initial narrow application to include many forms of mental and emotional woes.
I use music to assist my clients to experience feelings locked inside them that they find hard to access. Sometimes music can elicit crying, which is exactly what a grieving client may require, whether that grief is for the loss of another person, or the loss of their “selves”.
Music is of great value to therapists because we as humans are all about rhythm. Our hearts beat time, we breathe rhythmically, there is rhythm in the way we speak and walk. And of course, we can also sing.
I always recommend listening to music without headphones where possible, so that it becomes a whole body experience, rather than just a “head’ sensation.
Music has great healing powers and the right songs can uplift, inspire, release pent-up tears, and induce better emotional health. It is capable of raising or lowering our heart rates by up to 25%, a factor which can be used therapeutically for different emotional conditions.
To lower anxiety, choose music that has a slow beat, slower than that of your heart rate. Singing, in conjunction to listening, speeds up the healing process as the breath becomes involved as well as the heart rate.
If music therapy can help shell-shocked soldiers it is definitely worth
looking into as a potent stress release and mood enhancer.