What is music therapy?

By , on May 29, 2016

Did you know that music can actually heal patients? This is called music therapy. (Photo: Elise Cai/Flickr)
Did you know that music can actually heal patients? This is called music therapy. (Photo: Elise Cai/Flickr)

MANILA – Filipinos are recognized globally as music-lovers. They are also known for being cheerful. In fact, many of them believe that “laughter is the best medicine”.

Did you know that music can actually heal patients? This is called music therapy.

According to the American Music Therapy Association, music therapy is an interpersonal process where a therapist uses music and all of its facets – physical, emotional, mental, social, aesthetic and spiritual – to help someone improve or maintain his/her health.

Dr. Joselyn Eusebio, a developmental pediatrician, said everyone can benefit from music therapy.

“This is good for people with physical, emotional, social or cognitive deficits, and also good for healthy people as it will help them relax,” she noted, adding that music has no harmful effects.

Eusebio cited that previous studies have shown that music acts as an anesthesia because it “interrupts” pain signals before reaching the brain.

She added that the most extensive account of music in general hospitals was during the first half of 1900s, when healthcare practitioners used music in conjunction with anesthesia and analgesia.

“It is also believed that Greek physician, Hippocrates, played music for his mental patients during 400 B.C,” said Dr. Eusebio.

The lady pediatrician noted that music can also be used to improve learning or build self- esteem. She explained that musical activities help in the holistic development of a child, which includes the child’s personal growth, brain growth, interpersonal growth, musicality, creativity and learning.

Thus, she believes that music is ideal to many children, especially those with cerebral palsy, and other diseases. “The therapy may also enhance attention span among children with special needs,” she added.

There are recommendations as to how music therapy can be done. Music therapists should determine the patient’s problem first, then set a therapeutic goal for him/her.

After devising musical activities, the therapist must evaluate if it was effective.

Furthermore, music must be 60-80 beats per minute, and ideally non-lyrical. Only suitable equipment must be used, and remember that 60 decibels is the maximum volume level. Also, ask the patient’s preference.

How does it work?

There is a theory that says music therapy can distract a patient from pain, anxiety and stress as it drives the person’s focus on something pleasant and encouraging.

When calmness occupies the mind, it allows the person to escape into his/her “world”, giving him/her relaxation, explained Dr. Eusebio.

Eusebio cited the “Gate Control Therapy of Pain” where pain receptors act together to send signals to the brain. Music can therefore “distract” these receptors. “A lot of studies support that music provides pre-operative support since it acts as analgesic,” she noted.

There are studies suggesting that listening to classical music can be beneficial. Eusebio said Mozart music, for instance, is highly recommended during pregnancy. Music provides infant stimulation according to her.

She mentioned, however, that exposing kids to loud/wild music can affect their attention span, and can even make them more irritable.

Meanwhile, the pioneer of music therapy in the Philippines, Celeste Sanchez, emphasized that not all kinds of music is okay for the minds.

She once highlighted that there is appropriate music, depending on a person’s age. Sanchez said classical music is the best.American Music Therapy AssociationAmerican Music Therapy Associatio