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Sunday, April 23, 2006

Music Therapy: Improves the Quality of Life

Music therapy is effective in relieving anxiety and stress, promoting relaxation and treating depression. Music therapy allows people with emotional problems to explore feelings, make positive changes in mood, practice problem solving, and resolve conflicts. It has been used successfully by mental health institutions during group therapy sessions.

The healing effects of music therapy are not limited to mental health. They have been observed in hospitalized patients with burns, heart disease, diabetes and cancer. As a complement to rehabilitation care, music therapy seems to strengthen communication and physical coordination skills, as it improves the physical and mental functioning of those with neurological disabilities or developmental disorders. Those with learning, speech and hearing problems may also find music therapy helpful.

Music therapy reduces the need for medication during childbirth and complements the use of anesthesia during surgery and dental work, especially when children undergo medical and surgical procedures. It is useful in newborn care of premature infants. Aside from these acute situations, music therapy helps ease chronic pain.

Music therapy can also improve the quality of life of terminally ill patients and enhance the well-being of the elderly, including those suffering from Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia. It has been used to complement the treatment of AIDS, stroke, Parkinson's and cancer. At the same time, music therapy is useful in the support of the families and caregivers of such patients.

If you consult a music therapist for a particular condition, the therapist will first talk to you about your symptoms and needs. In addition, the therapist will assess your emotional well-being, physical health, social functioning, communication abilities and cognitive skills. Using this information, your therapist will design an appropriate treatment plan that would probably include playing and listening to music, analyzing lyrics, composing songs, improvising and/or using rhythmic movement.

Some music therapy is conducted in a group setting. You might perform music with others who have the same condition as you, or you may just interact and relax with others as music plays in the background. If you are in the hospital for surgery or to give birth, your music therapy might simply entail listening to your favorite songs to help you relax and reduce pain.

When I practice music therapy, especially for relaxation, the first thing I do is to find a calming environment, where I won't be disturbed or interrupted. Next, I light incense or a scented candle, as I find that aromatherapy helps to calm my body.

Next, I choose the music, which becomes easier the more you learn about your body's response to different kinds of music. I then sit on the floor, in an upright position with my legs crossed. I breathe deeply, inhaling and exhaling very slowly through my nose.

As the music plays, I listen intently to the instruments as if the players were right there in the room playing to me. Often I position myself directly in front of the speaker, so I can feel the vibrations as well as hear the music being played. Some people use headphones. This is fine, but I recommend you feel the sound coming into your body, and not just into your head.

Visualize the sound waves coming from the speakers and going through you. Not only should you position yourself physically to catch the sound energy in your body, but you should also focus your mind. Focus on where you want the healing vibrations to go. Listen as you visualize the sound waves beaming through your body and replenishing your cells, tissues, and internal organs.

As you practice music therapy you will develop the method that works best for you. Once you know how your body responds to certain instruments, timbres, and musical styles, you can design sessions in the sequence you find most beneficial to you.

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