What is Music Therapy?

Music therapy is the skillful use of music and musical elements to promote, maintain, and restore mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health. Music has nonverbal, creative, structural, and emotional qualities. These are used in the therapeutic relationship to facilitate contact, interaction, self-awareness, learning, self-expression, communication, and personal development.


Music Therapy in Vancouver, Canada

Frances Rauscher, a neuroscientist from the University of Wisconsin discovered an unusual effect of Mozart’s music on people’s physiology in 1993. Listening to the “Sonata in C Major for Two Pianos” was improving mental abilities of students – they were showing better performance on tests.

Some other experiments have also shown positive impact of Mozart’s music on the brain activity. However, until now scientists have been arguing whether it is just a consequence of a good mood caused by Mozart’s harmonic melodies or is a result of more profound physiological processes, which are somehow related to the particularities of this music.

Recently Rauscher has announced the results of new studies on the Mozart effect. This time music was given to rats, which were to perform various tasks on memory and intelligence. It is logical that rats would hardly appreciate the beauty of classical music. However, just like in the case of experiments with humans, Mozart’s music has greatly improved the ability of animals to perform tasks.

At the same time the scientist not only checked the progress in their task performance but also “looked into” their brains. He found out that Mozart’s music had affected the activity of certain genes and the production of several proteins responsible for memory and attention. To compare the results of his experiment, Rauscher has examined the same parameters in rats that instead of music were given an equivalent amount of the “white noise”.


Music Therapy in Vancouver, Canada

Music can be beneficial for anyone. Although it can be used therapeutically for people who have physical, emotional, social, or cognitive deficits, even those who are healthy can use music to relax, reduce stress, improve mood, or to accompany exercise.

There are no potentially harmful or toxic effects. Music therapy help patients achieve a number of goals through music, including improvement of communication, academic strengths, attention span, and motor skills, including behavioral therapy and pain management.

Music Therapy and Mental Health

Mental health clients may have unmet needs in many areas that music therapy can uniquely address. The emotional, expressive nature of music can serve as a bridge to self-awareness, insight, and identification of feelings. Music stimulates association, affect, and imagery in ways that analytical, verbal processes cannot. Group music experiences can create bonding and a sense of community among clients. Music, through its structure and order, can serve as a grounding experience for those who are agitated, manic, or psychotic. Individuals who are not able to participate in groups can benefit from individual sessions through this non-verbal modality.

Recent literature supports the use of music therapy in the treatment of those with mental disorders. Many psychiatric facilities throughout Canada have a strong music therapy presence. 

Music therapy can offer a valuable supplement or alternative to traditional psychotherapies for clients who suffer from:

  • schizophrenia
  • affective disorders
  • personality disorders
  • anxiety disorders
  • organic brain syndrome
  • substance abuse
  • eating disorders
  • psychiatric disorders of childhood
  • other mental illnesses

Different therapeutic approaches are available depending on the needs of the client and the training and background of the music therapist. Music therapy, because of its flexibility and adaptability, can be used in a variety of different treatment formats, adjusting to meet the needs of a vast variety of individual functioning abilities while at the same time
complimenting the goals and philosophies of other psychiatric treatment modalities.

With the severely psychotic patient, for example, music therapy can reach in to make contact; it can support the person to focus and be successful in simple, structured activities such as instrument playing or group singing. It can also support the development of social skills and the expression of feelings, while relieving anxiety and stimulating ordered thinking and physical activity. For higher functioning clients, music therapy can work deeply to bring unconscious material to awareness. Music therapy can also be useful in the treatment of anxiety, depression, and mood disorders, and symptoms such as impaired thought processing. Engagement in successful musical experiences can improve self-esteem and promote feelings of health and well-being.

Clinical and experimental research in the literature has demonstrated the efficacy of music to promote relaxation, communication, creative self-expression, psychophysical activation, insight, and emotional processing. Music has also historically been connected with spirituality and therefore can be an avenue for exploring the client’s own spirituality, which may lead to enhanced coping skills, hope, and many other benefits.

Supportive music therapy activities can include (but are not limited to):

  • musical role-playing
  • songwriting
  • singing
  • visualization
  • meditation
  • music improvisation
  • lyric analysis and discussion
  • creative expression
  • instrument playing

Music therapy is a highly flexible art form which assists in the treatment of clients with mental illnesses. The flexible and supportive nature of music therapy allows for a comfortable, non-threatening, and creative environment for the individual mental health client.

To Book Appointment with Lazzaro call 604 202 7938 

Music Therapy for Community Health & Wellness: Music Therapy can be a resource that people choose to access in the community to restore and promote their own health and well-being. Music Therapy programs directly address quality of life issues. A Health and Wellness approach might directly address goals such as creativity, self-exploration, enhanced quality of life, integration of mind/body resources, intuition, focus, memory work, identity, autonomy, performance, stress reduction, motivation, pain management, accessing feelings, empowerment, communication, and socialization. This list is by no means exhaustive. Music experiences that might take place include focused listening, toning, singing, song-writing, instrumental improvisation, drumming, music and meditation, guided imagery and music, and music with the other arts.