Music therapy: why music is good for and what it heals

from Giorgia Martino

Primordial, instinctive, innate, music already accompanies us in the maternal womb, considering the various studies that show how the fetus reacts positively to the melodies heard by its mother. Sometimes it is enough to hear a song to unblock a suppressed cry or to feel happiness and motivation, just as a repetitive sound can unnerves us or make us fall asleep. Nature has its sounds, animals often have calls very similar to songs, the Universe itself has its music.

Faced with the total naturalness of this expressive form, we cannot be surprised by the fact that music has a strong healing power and rehabilitation for our soul and our body. Music therapy is not new: one of the first texts in this regard dates back to 1748, by Louis Rogera physician from Montpellier, who addressed the effects of music on the human body.

To date, there are various training and specialization schools, open to experts of various kinds, such as educators, psychologists, neuropsychomotricists, musicians. From this we deduce how wide the range of action of this important expressive therapy is.

Psychotherapy and music therapy

Music therapy, also treating our emotional part, is related to psychotherapy, but with the necessary differences: “The two disciplines both have therapeutic purposes in the human psyche, and they are both relational therapies”, says the doctor. Sara Tilli, psychologist psychotherapist and music therapist in Rome. “So they can be integrated, but they should not be confused: the music therapist is an operator, for now in Italy not yet recognized as a” health “compared to a psychologist, although he can also operate in the rehabilitation and health fields, but he must necessarily participate in a team in which there are doctors, psychologists or other figures who work in that specific health or rehabilitation field.

Why musitherapy is effective

What makes music therapy so therapeutically powerful? «The correlation between music and emotions is certainly not a modern discovery. The first hypotheses date back to Plato, up to the latest research in experimental psychology, supported by the technologies for measuring brain activity in neuroscience », explains Tilli. «Music is a particularly functional context for expressing one’s emotions and activating cognitive elaborations. Far from the pragmatism of verbal language, the musical context corresponds more to the more instinctive and emotional nature of the human being ».

But pay attention to the concept of music, as our expert explains: “When the term music is used in a context of music therapy, it is used as a synonym for any sound, perceptible or not, by the auditory system, also capturing the related aspects to movement and rhythm ».

Which pathologies are treated with music therapy

The range of patients who can benefit from music therapy is wide and varied, with the necessary customizations of the therapeutic path, based on the objectives to be achieved and the starting pathology. Our expert, in fact, affirms that music therapy can intervene:

  • For educational and socializing purposes in school expressive workshops
  • In pre-natal and pregnancy courses
  • As a support for normal aging
  • In rehabilitation centers for various disabilities
  • In mental health centers
  • In elderly care centers
  • In wards for the terminally ill
  • For childhood autism
  • For neuropsychological and neuromotor disorders
  • For senile dementias.

Patients benefit from it in various ways, starting with the psychological and social aspects. «Music therapy it can facilitate expression in people with communication deficitscreates the opportunity for positive social experiences, develops the self-awareness, others and the environment. It leads to a general improvement, increases well-being and promotes greater independence, ”explains Dr. Tilli.

But not only that: it is a discipline that can bring many advantages at the neuromotor and rehabilitation level: «For example, by singing very slowly and emphasizing the words, a patient with severe cognitive impairment can be stimulated to respond to the musical invitation. Or again, by improvising a song that stimulates motor responses (such as “left”, “forward”, “below”, etc.) or that indicates parts of the body, it is possible to help those who have difficulty in coordination and body perception ».

How a music therapy session takes place

Music therapy sessions can be individual or group. Furthermore, they differ according to two methods of intervention: active and receptive.

“The receptive methodology is based onlistening to music and their consequent re-elaboration », Tilli explains. “While the active one is based on the activation and improvisation of the patient, on the observation of his bodily-sound-musical productions and on the use of musical instruments through the direct manipulation of these”.

Obviously, it is specified that one must not be a musician to carry out a music therapy session: “The instruments are mostly made up of easy-to-use musical instruments, in the absence of a specific musical competence, such as congas, bongos, xylophones, flutes, whistles and maracas ». Also in this case, therefore, go ahead to your instinct and your creativity.

To find the right music therapist, you can contact specific associations, such as AIM, the Italian Association of Music Therapy Professionals.