Influences of Music Therapy

Illustration by Nick Rogers

Illustration by Nick Rogers

The field of medicine stands on a substantially stable basis of fact regarding what works and what does not. If a medication works, it is put on the market for physicians to subscribe to patients expressing the symptoms of its associated diagnosis. Acetaminophen is to a fever just as Prozac and Sarafem are to depression, but how does one finish the analogy to the prescription of music therapy?
Music therapy defines itself as a form of therapy that uses music as a means of maintain and promoting mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health. With a smaller than average amount of research in the field, it is no surprise that physician’s confidence in the effectivity of music therapy could be low. Lying somewhere within the crossroads of physiology, sociology and psychology, music therapy experimentation can prove time extensive, multi-faceted and highly susceptible to confounding variables ranging across all three fields. Confusing things further, music therapy’s wide applicability to varying diseases and diagnoses like makes it worrisome in terms of specific treatment performance for professional medical personnel. According to his publication, “Effectiveness of Music Therapy: A Summary of Systematic Reviews Based on Randomized Control Trials of Music Interventions,” Hiroharu Kamioka, a member of the faculty of Regional Environmental Science in Tokyo, explains that music therapy has been effectively applied to situations of schizophrenia, Parkinson’s Disease, depressive symptoms and sleep quality through several different mechanisms such as musical appreciation, musical instrumental performance, and singing. Additional studies have looked at less mental illness as well, discovering that music therapy has proven effective in several cases of patients with cardiovascular malfunctions and cancer. With such a generally applicable treatment and a broad scope of diagnoses, music therapy loses validity as a medical treatment as what appear to be a positive life adjustment. Though I cannot personally speak much more to the statistical evidence regarding the validity of music therapy, personal experience has led this concept to take the forefront of my college career.
On campus, several programs and classes serve as a sense of hope that such therapy may grow more extensively into the future to become a treatment this campus of future healthcare professionals might be able to prescribe more regularly at the bedside. Beat Therapy a program here on campus committed to engaging different geographical and biographical communities through music, offers several different programs in which students can enter other individual’s homes and classrooms. Students share their gifts of instrumentalism and sociability with the community they engage, encouraging children and adults to embrace the universal language. As a leader of one of the Beat Therapy programs that brings music to the Easter Seals of St. Louis, I and each of my fellow volunteers have experienced firsthand the influences of music therapy on children and young adults with autism. Though their levels of understanding regarding what music is and how it works may be limited, there is no question that the students each week recognize the music playing around them, and some may even recognize the instruments as a means of directly playing a part in the song. While the games themselves offer the opportunity for further practice in communication and sociability, that does not serve as our primary goal in this environment. Instead, providing the music for the students to hear and do with what they will welcomes the concept that music therapy overall captures: individuality. Whether referring to the music one listens to, the way one looks or the illness that has taken hold and led to the applicability of such therapeutic treatment, music therapy invites everyone to be themselves and to be proud of that, because no matter what they do their voice is critical to the community’s song. Not statistical enough to be true? Kamioka observed a positive correlation among patients undergoing music therapy and an increase in self-acceptance, anxiety, and depression. Such improvements stimulate comfort, relaxation, and well-being, all fundamentally effective in making the recovery or managing process of an illness occur much more smoothly. Perhaps researchers and physicians and even we students fail to see the larger view of the person, and the more holistic view of medicine supporting an improved mindset as treatment for a more medicinally focused ailment. One must treat the whole person, and music offers an opportunity to treat such person with the care they need to feel comfortable with their condition. Whether in a classroom of Easter Seals or on a patient cart in the hospital, this idea seems to apply. So, although Prozac may be specifically correlated to depression as acetaminophen is to fever, music therapy’s wide applicability does not lessen its medically-oriented nature. A medicinal prescription need not always be drug.

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