What is music therapy?
The role of a music therapist is not to teach people how to play an instrument, but how to improve communication and also encourage positive changes emotionally, through live musical interaction and the development of the musical and therapeutic relationship.
A music therapist would be interested in experiences that a client associates with certain pieces of music- music can evoke strong feelings or memories, positive or negative.
What effect does music have?
Music can affect the way we think and act. Research has found that listening to a piece of music, and then identifying whether it is happy or sad, affects how we see neutral faces. Most often people unconsciously seek music that enforces their mood, but some listen to sad music in order to, sometimes unconsciously, meet their own sadness. Music can be purposefully used as a stimulator or amplifier of a certain mood- there are many cases when killers and thieves have been seen wearing earphones and listening to music when performing their criminal acts. Music can take a person’s mind off something else, which is why music therapy is useful in, for example, curbing an addiction of some sort.
What does the Beehouse offer in terms of music therapy?
After a week of work experience at the Beehouse, I feel a lot more educated on the subject of music therapy. I was given the opportunity to talk with various people about how music has helped them through difficult times and taught them how to help others through their struggles as well.
Although the Beehouse does not offer music therapy sessions specifically, it is still well catered for those wanting to use music as a form of therapy/recovery, whether this is through playing, writing or listening to others.
Types of Music Therapy
Music therapy can be divided into two main categories- receptive (music listening based) and active (music making). There is a venue for performance, where people can play their own songs/covers or listen to other artists, and recording areas where they can record and edit their own tracks in a way that will be useful to them. People may find music therapy particularly helpful when emotions are too confusing to express verbally- at the Beehouse, pieces can be edited using advanced technology, which ensures that a client’s work is what they imagined it to be, and allows them to leave feeling positive after every session and happy with what they accomplished. People’s reviews are positive and tell of a new confidence they have since recording.
Any form of therapy requires a thoughtful, sympathetic approach, and there are experienced engineering and production staff, along with songwriting courses, to make sure clients get the help they need on their pathway to recovery. Positive effects music has on the brain:
• Music addresses both the left and right side of the brain, and affects its growth- listening to music can promote a greater attention span, better social skills, emotional expressions and language development.
• Listening to and creating music also makes the brain more symmetrical and the areas of the brain responsible for motor control, auditory processing and spatial coordination are larger.
• It lowers the stress hormone cortisol, which reduces chronic stress.
• Listening to music also increases the neurotransmitter dopamine, known as the brain’s ‘motivation molecule’, which is part of the pleasure-reward system.
• Playing music with others stimulates the brain hormone oxytocin, nicknamed the ‘trust molecule’ and the ‘moral molecule’. Now to pick out a few specific areas in which music therapy helps to tackle problems:
Music has a positive effect on those who are blind, whether this is through actively playing instruments or listening to them. It can result in increased fluency and confidence of expression and communication; greater self-confidence, self-awareness, social skills and mobility as they may feel a sense of accomplishment from playing, and also attending events like concerts promotes social engagement and encourages mobility.
It also helps those suffering from dementia. Advanced Alzheimer’s patients lose their ability to have interactive conversations with others- music therapy has been successful at getting through to patients even when nothing else has- when hearing familiar music, they visibly ‘light up’ and sing along, it seems that musical memories far outlast other memories.
Those who are hearing impaired face challenges in this area, but there are ways we can help:
Playing/listening to an artist in a poor acoustic environment is very difficult- ways to help this would be by keeping background noise to a minimum, using rooms with soft furnishings and keeping doors and windows shut when possible.
Extra effort is needed when learning and listening, and they may have difficulty grasping rhythm- to help, use gestures to demonstrate what is happening in the lyrics of a song, and nod or clap while a performance is happening, this helps those who are hearing impaired to notice the beat and help them feel the music.
But people who are deaf are still able to love music, as they can feel different vibrations in the instruments. This is what allows them to learn instruments to very high standards and also attend ‘non-deaf specific’ events- the vibrations, along with the reactions of other people, determine whether it is a good piece of music for them.