Methods of Using Music for Therapy

For most people, music is an important part of daily life. Some rely on music to get them through the morning commute, while others turn up a favorite playlist to stay pumped during a workout. Many folks even have the stereo on when they’re cooking a meal, taking a shower, or folding the laundry.

Music is often linked to mood. A certain song can make us feel happy, sad, energetic, or relaxed. Because music can have such an impact on a person’s mindset and well-being, it should come as no surprise that music therapy has been studied for use in managing numerous medical conditions. All forms of music may have therapeutic effects, although music from one’s own culture may be most effective. In Chinese medical theory, the five internal organ and meridian systems are believed to have corresponding musical tones, which are used to encourage healing.

Types of music differ in the types of neurological stimulation they evoke. For example, classical music has been found to cause comfort and relaxation while rock music may lead to discomfort. Music may achieve its therapeutic effects in part by elevating the pain threshold.

Music may be used with guided imagery to produce altered states of consciousness that help uncover hidden emotional responses and stimulate creative insights. Music may also be used in the classroom to aid children in the development of reading and language skills. Receptive methods involve listening to and responding to live or recorded music. Discussion of their responses is believed to help people express themselves in socially accepted ways and to examine personal issues. There is strong scientific evidence supporting the use of music therapy for mood enhancement and anxiety/stress relief, according to Natural Standard research.

In general, musical therapy utilizes the power of music to interact with human emotions and affect wellbeing, although there are several different types recognized in the world today. There are various different psychological theories for musical therapy, which define the different types as we know them.

Bonny Method of Guided Imagery and Music

Helen Lindquist Bonny was a music therapist who developed an approach to music therapy that involves guided imagery with music.

Mental imagery is used to aid patients with physiological and psychological issues they may be experiencing. The patient is asked to focus on an image, using this as a starting point to think and discuss any related problems. Bonny added music to this technique, helping patients to heal and find solutions with increased awareness.

In this application, music is thought to be a co-therapist, due to the significant role it plays in the therapy. The music choice is an important consideration for the therapist to make, with the individual patient and the goals for the session influencing the selection.


Dalcroze Eurhythmics

Also known as the Dalcroze Method, this is a method used to teach music to students and can be used as a form of therapy.

It was developed by Émile Jaques-Dalcroze and focuses on rhythm, structure and movement expression in the learning process. This type of musical therapy is thought to greatly improve physical awareness, which helps patients with motor difficulties significantly.


ZoltánKodály is considered to be the inspiration for the development of this philosophy of music therapy. It uses a base of rhythm, notation, sequence and movement to aid in the learning and healing of the patient.

It has been observed that this method helps to improve intonation, rhythm and music literacy and has also had a positive impact on perceptual function, concept formation, motor skills and learning performance in a therapeutic setting.

Neurologic Music Therapy (NMT

NMT is a model of music therapy that is based on neuroscience, specifically the perception and production of music and its influence on the function of the brain and behaviors.

Music therapy does not improve autism symptoms in children, say researchers.

It uses the difference between the brain with and without music and manipulates this to instigate changes in the brain to affect the patient, even outside the realm of music.

Specialists of this type of musical therapy claim that the brains changes and develops as a direct consequence of engaging with music. This can be beneficial to train motor responses, like tapping a foot to music, and to develop related motor skills.


Paul Nordoff and Clive Robbins partnered together for nearly two decades to investigate the place of music in therapy, with a particular interest for disabled children.

They piloted projects with children affected by autism, mental disorders, emotional disturbances, developmental delays and other learning difficulties, using music as the means of therapy. Their work was recognized by relevant health bodies, particularly for a 5-year study entitled “Music Therapy Project for Psychotic Children Under Sever at the Day Care Unit.” They also published several books, explaining the theory and instructing how music can be used for children’s therapy.

The core aspect of the Nordoff-Robbins approach assumes everyone can find meaning and benefit from music and focuses on music creation with the help of a therapist. This technique is widely practiced throughout the world today and can accommodate patients of all experience and ability levels.


The Orff-Schulwerk approach to music therapy was developed by Gertrude Orff to help children with developmental delays and disabilities, following the realization that medicine alone was not sufficient.

This places an emphasis on education (“schulwerk” translates from German to “schoolwork”) and uses music to improve the learning ability of children. It also places significance on humanistic psychology and employs music as a means to improve interaction between the patient and other people.




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