Music therapy is an interpersonal process in which the therapist uses music and all of its facets—physical, emotional, mental, social, aesthetic, and spiritual—to help clients to improve or maintain their health. In some instances, the client’s needs are addressed directly through music; in others they are addressed through the relationships that develop between the client and therapist. Music therapy is used with individuals of all ages and with a variety of conditions, including: psychiatric disorders, medical problems, physical handicaps, sensory impairments, developmental disabilities, substance abuse, communication disorders, interpersonal problems, and aging. It is also used to: improve learning, build self-esteem, reduce stress, support physical exercise, and facilitate a host of other health-related activities. Music therapists are found in nearly every area of the helping professions. Some commonly found practices include developmental work (communication, motor skills, etc.) with individuals with special needs, songwriting and listening in reminiscence/orientation work with the elderly, processing and relaxation work, and rhythmic entrainment for physical rehabilitation in stroke victims.
The Turco-Persian psychologist and music theorist al-Farabi known as “Alpharabius” in Europe, dealt with music therapy in his treatise Meanings of the Intellect, where he discussed the therapeutic effects of music on the soul. Robert Burton wrote in the 17th century in his classic work, The Anatomy of Melancholy, that music and dance were critical in treating mental illness, especially melancholia.It is considered one of the expressive therapies.
Music Therapy as Stroke Therapy Music has been shown to affect portions of the brain. Part of this therapy is the ability of music to affect emotions and social interactions. Research by Nayak et al showed that music therapy is associated with a decrease in depression, improved mood, and a reduction in state anxiety. Both descriptive and experimental studies have documented effects of music on quality of life, involvement with the environment, expression of feelings, awareness and responsiveness, positive associations, and socialization. Additionally, Nayak et al. found that music therapy had a positive effect on social and behavioral outcomes and showed some encouraging trends with respect to mood.
More recent research suggests that music can increase patient’s motivation and positive emotions. Current research also suggests that when music therapy is used in conjunction with traditional therapy it improves success rates significantly.Therefore, it is hypothesized that music therapy helps stroke victims recover faster and with more success by increasing the patient’s positive emotions and motivation, allowing them to be more successful and driven to participate in traditional therapies.
Research has shown the ability of music therapy to increase positive social interactions, positive emotions, and motivation in stroke patients. Wheeler et al. found that group music therapy sessions increased the ease at which stroke patients responded to social interaction and increased positive attitude reports from patient families, while individual sessions helped to motivate patients for treatment. Another study examined the effect of music therapy on mood of stroke patients and found similar results that showed decreased anxiety, fatigue, and hostile mood states . Additionally, Nayak et al. found improved social interaction (more actively involved and cooperative) when music therapy was used in stroke recovery programs.
Recent studies have examined the effect of music therapy on stroke patients, when combined with traditional therapy. One study found the incorporation of music with therapeutic upper extremity exercises gave patients more positive emotional effects than exercise alone. In another study, Nayak et al. discovered found that rehabilitation staff rated participants in the music therapy group as more actively involved and cooperative in therapy than those in the control group. Their findings gave preliminary support to the efficacy of music therapy as a complementary therapy for social functioning and participation in rehabilitation with a trend toward improvement in mood during acute rehabilitation.
Although positive changes have been associated with music therapy, some considerations must be taken into account. While scientists have determined that a variety of physiological and psychological changes occur when listening to music, broad conclusions cannot yet be made concerning the relationship and the direction of the relationship between music and emotion.Additionally, there may be mediating factors which affect the success of music therapy. For example, Nayak et al. found the more impaired an individual’s social behavior was at the outset of treatment, the more likely he or she was to benefit from music therapy.Additionally, they noted the effectiveness of music therapy may be moderated by the time frame of the treatment. It is possible that music therapy has a more pronounced effect on mood the closer to injury it is applied.
Current research shows that when music therapy is used in conjunction with traditional therapy, it improves rates of recovery, and emotional and social deficits resulting from stroke. A study by Jeong & Kim examined the impact of music therapy when combined with traditional stroke therapy in a community-based rehabilitation program.Thirty-three stroke survivors were randomized into one of two groups: the experimental group, which combined rhythmic music and specialized rehabilitation movement for eight weeks; and a control group, that received referral information for traditional therapy (and were assumed to have sought traditional therapy). The results of this study showed that participants in the experimental group gained more flexibility, wider range of motion, more positive moods, and increased frequency and quality of social interactions.
Music has also been used in recovery of motor skills. Rhythmical auditory stimulation in a musical context in combination with traditional gait therapy improved the ability of stroke patients to walk.The study consisted of two treatment conditions, one which received traditional gait therapy and another which received the gait therapy in combination with the rhythmical auditory stimulation. During the rhythmical auditory stimulation, stimulation was played back measure by measure, and was initiated by the patient’s heal-strikes. Each condition received fifteen sessions of therapy. The results revealed that the rhythmical auditory stimulation group showed more improvement in stride length, symmetry deviation, walking speed and rollover path length (all indicators for improved walking gait) than the group that received traditional therapy alone.
Schneider et al. also studied the effects of combining music therapy with standard motor rehabilitation methods. In this experiment, researchers recruited stroke patients without prior musical experience and trained half of them in an intensive step by step training program that occurred fifteen times over three weeks, in addition to traditional treatment. These participants were trained to use fine both fine and gross motor movements by learning how to use the piano and drums. The other half of the patients received only traditional treatment over the course of the three weeks. Three-dimensional movement analysis and clinical motor tests showed participants who received the additional music therapy had significantly better speed, precision, and smoothness of movements as compared to the control subjects. Participants who received music therapy also showed a significant improvement in every-day motor activities as compared to the control group. Wilson, Parsons, & Reutens looked at the effect of melodic intonation therapy (MIT) on speech production in a male singer with severe Broca’s aphasia. In this study, thirty novel phrases were taught in three conditions: unrehearsed, rehearsed verbal production (repetition), or rehearsed verbal production with melody (MIT). Results showed that phrases taught in the MIT condition had superior production, and that compared to rehearsal, effects of MIT lasted longer.
Another study examined the incorporation of music with therapeutic upper extremity exercises on pain perception in stroke victims. Over the course of eight weeks, stroke victims participated in upper extremity exercises (of the hand, wrist, and shoulder joints) in conjunction with one of the three conditions: song, karaoke accompaniment, and no music. Patients participated in each condition once, according to a randomized order, and rated their perceived pain immediately after the session. Results showed that although there was no significant difference in pain rating across the conditions, video observations revealed more positive affect and verbal responses while performing upper extremity exercises with both music and karaoke accompaniment. Nayak et al examined the combination of music therapy with traditional stroke rehabilitation and also found the addition of music therapy improved mood and social interaction. Participants who had suffered traumatic brain injury or stroke were placed in one of two conditions: standard rehabilitation or standard rehabilitation along with music therapy. Participants received three treatments per week for up to ten treatments. Therapists found that participants who received music therapy in conjunction with traditional methods had improved social interaction and mood.
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