Music Therapy – Exploring the Link between Mental Health and Music

You’ve probably heard about people who say that music is their getaway. We all tend to get a little bit more cheerful when listening to good music and playing our favorite songs. But the link between serotonin and music goes even deeper, as recent data shows that musical instruments can be your way to Zen.


Technology has enhanced many aspects of the lives we lead, and the field of medicine has not been excluded from this enhancement process. With new means of experimenting, scientists and medical professionals are now able to conduct research on diverse factors that make up the nature of us, human beings.

Among many intensive research projects, investigating the impact that music has upon people has been quite a continuous goal in medicine for some time now.

Scientists have been studying the positive vibes we get while listening to music, specifically while playing any sort of instrument, and have concluded that this sort of activity stimulates our cognitive processes positively.

What Are Some Relevant Studies?

A study from The British Journal of Psychiatry (2011) examined the mechanisms that may explain the complex intervention between the musical experience and human reaction.

The study found that music therapy is effective because active music-making within the therapeutic framework offers the patient opportunities for new aesthetic, physical, and relational experiences.

In this study, they emphasized that the role of physical activity in averting depression and alleviating its effects is well recognized.

“This is not simply a matter of getting people affordances – physical, relational, and aesthetic. Above all, music-making is social (and hence interpersonal), pleasurable, and meaningful: this may also be why randomized trials of music therapy have shown high levels of engagement with patient groups who are traditionally difficult to engage”.

But What Is Music Therapy, in the First Place?

The American Music Therapy Association describes music therapy as a clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program.

By using music in a therapeutic context, these professionals strengthen their patient or client’s abilities.

They do this by trying to transfer their focus and attention to other aspects of their lives. Therapeutics who use music as a healing methodology affirm that the results are very visible, specifically in patients who encounter difficulties expressing themselves through speaking.

Music therapy advances their communication skills and increases their willingness to continue with treatment.

Music has beneficial effect to both children and adults

If the aforementioned study were not enough evidence, you should check out another study called ‘Start making sense: Art informing health psychology’, by co-authors Ad A. Kaptein, Brian M. Hughes, Michael Murray, and Joshua M. Smyth.

It lists several findings from different researchers who note benefits from the different impacts of music whether while listening to it only (passively) or whether by playing it (Actively).

One systematic review that they quote indicates that having patients listen to music while they are in the operating room appears to reduce their stress levels, leading to a reduction in analgesia and sedation requirements.

They claim that the same effect applies to children as well as adults.

Numerous authors mentioned in this same study have also found that music interventions may have a statistically significant effect in reducing post-operative pain, anxiety, and distress in children undergoing surgical procedures, and that even recovery after the surgery can be enhanced.

An interesting perspective on the effects of music that emerges from this same research includes the results from music interventions on chronic and severe illness conditions, found through an experimental condition.

As authors describe the methodology, recorded music was combined with a visit by a nurse who took care of patients with cancer in their homes. The control condition was similar, but with no music.

The authors found that patients in the experimental condition exhibited enhanced well-being as measured by anxiety and depression scores, as well as blood volume pulse amplitude, compared to patients in the control condition.

Music helps also on the physical level

The authors conclude that music interventions may have beneficial effects on anxiety, pain, and mood. The positive impact seems to extend to family members of patients as well.

And the reader is left in complete awe, noticing just how much our internal and external selves can change, thanks to some notes of music. And to check all of these facts, we feel the need to guide you to the web-page of Health Psychology Open.

The whole study published there offers some amazing remarks!

How Is This Level of Impact Achieved?

It would be normal to ask how listening or playing music can accomplish this degree of impact. What’s behind the whole process of healing?

When you think about it, music is made of sound frequencies, vibrations, and rhythms.

All of these have been and are being studied in detail by researchers for the influence they have on the human body and the human mind. As it’s been noted so far, playing music stimulates the body to produce immunoglobulin A, which is an antibody that makes us immune to diseases, infections, or bacteria.

As a result, with a more effective immune system and a lowered level of stress, induced by the sounds of music, we can easily understand how music can help us treat anxiety, clinical depression, or other related and pretty notorious mental illnesses.

And the best thing is that it is never too late to start taking piano lessons, guitar lessons or saxophone. Yes, we know that sometimes you need to have an inherited gift.

But maybe that’s not really the case, and you can explore the possibility of a new hobby, which also helps you to improve in so many aspects of your daily routine!

Photos: Shutterstock / Photomontage: Martina Advaney

Read more articles from the author.

Is Music Therapy about Health or Wellness?

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