Music Therapy improves, mood, movement and wellbeing
What is Music therapy?
Music therapy is the systematic use of music within the therapeutic relationship between a professional music therapist and person to promote healing with the goal of restoring, maintaining, and/or improving physical, emotional, psychosocial and neurological function. Not only songs are used but the various components of music, such as a specific tone or frequency of sound, certain patterns of beat or rhythm, harmony, and melody can be used independently to provide a clinical effect. The music therapist will work with the individual to explore various types of music and/or actively engage the client in musical improvisations to best assess how music can be used for healing.
Think of the power of music to move you through its effect on our emotions, behavior and movement. Music helps you harness this power for self healing.
The therapeutic use of music is an ancient concept cited in early literature including the writings of Plato and Aristotle. The professional field of music therapy was established in the United States fifty six years ago. In 1998, The American Music Therapy Association was founded as a union of the National Association for Music Therapy (established, 1950) and the American Association for Music Therapy (established, 1971).
How does Music therapy help Parkinson’s?
Music Therapy has proven to be particularly effective for persons with Parkinson’s disease (PD). Research in both music therapy and in neuroscience has shown that music can affect function in very profound ways. In fact, some neuroscience studies have shown that certain types of music stimulate dopamine and serotonin (two neurotransmitters (chemicals produced by brain cells) that are diminished in PD patients) production in the brain.
Many people with Parkinson’s have problems with initiation and consecutive movement. They also have problems with slowness of movement or bradykinesia. Music, particularly rhythm, can become a template for organizing a series of movements. This process is not automatic. The rhythm must stimulate the impulse or will to move in the PD patient in order for the impulse to transfer into real movement. The music therapist explores various rhythmic patterns or musical styles with the patient to establish which patterns will help with walking, balance, and movement in general. Patients report that by focusing on the rhythm and trying to feel its pulse they can better walk or perform consecutive tasks where previously they froze.
In addition to movement, patients with PD may have problems with articulation where their speech becomes slurred and unclear. Sometimes this is due to poor breath support and sometimes as a result of difficulties with the motor aspects of speech, ie moving the mouth and tongue to articulate a specific sound. Patients are encouraged to “sing” and sustain single syllables to promote greater breath support. They are also encouraged to tap their hand while they speak as this aids in the coordination and clarity of their speech.
Sometimes the patient with PD has too much movement and can’t stop the tremors or involuntary movements referred to as dyskinesia. The urge to move may impede the need to relax and may even disrupt sleep. In these instances, slow rhythmic music can slow down over active body rhythms and induce relaxation and sleep. Other aspects of Parkinson’s can affect a patient’s mood causing depression, anxiety and or even social isolation. Participating in music therapy groups, including therapeutic drumming groups, dance and movement groups, and music therapy support groups, can provide an outlet for self expression and a closer connection to others. Active music therapy can aid in promoting both physical as well as emotional health and well being.
Individuals with PD should explore the benefits of music therapy in their overall care. There are a few self help techniques that can be tried at home.
- Explore various styles of music, e.g., Latin, reggae, rock, marches, etc. and find those songs that make you want to move.
- Create a music library of “music to move by” and bring a portable CD along so that you can play this music while walking. Be careful when using headphones outdoors as this may distract you from paying attention to other sounds in the environment e.g., motor vehicles, bicyclists, etc.
- Explore music that you like to sing to and use these recordings to help keep your voice strong
- Create a “memory” library of your favorite music. Familiar music helps stimulate recall of old memories and meaningful moments in our lives.
- Explore music that makes you feel relaxed and use this music when you can’t fall to sleep
- Participate in group music programs such as a local chorus or social dancing
- Find a music therapy program in your area
Who can perform Music therapy?
A music therapist is a professional who has undergone rigorous education and training at an approved academic program and completed a thousand-hour clinical internship under the supervision of a trained music therapist. Upon completion of training, individuals are eligible to sit for the national exam offered by the Certification Board for Music Therapists. Music therapists who successfully complete the independently administered examination hold the music therapist-board certified credential (MT-BC). The National Music Therapy Registry (NMTR) serves qualified music therapy professionals with the following designations: RMT, CMT, ACMT. These individuals have also met accepted educational and clinical training standards and are qualified to practice music therapy. Many states require music therapists to be licensed, for example in New York State music therapists may also have the LCAT (Licensed Creative Arts Therapist) credential.
There are a growing number of health care facilities that offer music therapy as part of the provided services.
Check with your insurance carrier as some plans may cover music therapy services.
Author: Concetta M. Tomaino, D.A., MT-BC, Executive Director/ Co-Founder, Institute for Music and Neurologic Function, New York