What is Music Therapy?

As stated by Pablo Picasso, “Art washes from the soul the dust of everyday life.”

Music therapy is a scientific way of healing a human body and soul. Music has an innate power to bring in the change of behavior in a person.  This therapy is one such method that brings the emotions of vulnerable people in order.  The increasing suicidal cases and depressions have caused psychologists to seek friendly ways to bring in the most child’s play ways to cure the patients. Many war veterans have used this practice to calm the warriors after the war.

After World War II, American Society developed a committee for society to learn Music Therapy. The first-committee formed was in June 1950, called as National Association of Music Therapy in America. It chaired Rev. Arthur Flagler Fultz (Boxberger, 1963). The first successful association that put in order the rules and laws for music educational institutions and certification programs. It operated for the year 1950-1997.  An organization called as American Association of Music Therapy founded in 1971 had similar functions as that of NAMT.

Ancient Times of Music Therapy

The most ancient details of music as therapy dates back more than 40,000 years ago. A carved musical instruments on Caves, flutes made of bones found in Egyptian writings in 1500 BCE. Many civilizations and cultures have recognized music as a medical need, as a cure to the imbalance of mental health, that prevailed in the society. Music therapy was used in Egyptian temples as well.

The Greek mythology has references of music being an occupation of Apollo, the Greek God. Apollo’s music is a symbol of the lyre. Also, Aesculapius healed the minds of people by singing. Plato mentioned that music has a profound effect on emotions and can influence the molding of the character of a person in a better way.

Orpheus was one of the magicians of Music who transformed every living being of the planet to a healed soul. He was an unknown, unscripted, and unsung hero, but had divine capabilities of curing the people through his mellifluent voice. 

Chronology of Music therapy in and around The USA

  1. An article entitled “Music Psychically Considered”, written in 1789, is the first-ever document that cames to the surface.
  2. A music-controlled experiment carried out in 1800.
  3. In 1877, doctors used music as sedatives in operation theatres.
  4. Eva Augusta Vescelius founded the National Society of Musical Therapeutics, in the year 1903.
  5. In 1919, British Musician Margaret Anderson taught a course in Musicotherapy, at Columbia University.
  6. Isa Maud Ilsen founded The National Music Company for Hospitals, in 1926.
  7. Harriet Ann Seymour helped the veterans of the First World War and patients with depression, in the year 1930. In the year 1941, she founded the National Institution of Music Therapy.
  8. After the 1940s, Music Therapy had now become a point of importance in treating patients. Many psychiatrists and therapists looked at it in a scientific process to heal people.
  9. The credit for which is given to psychiatrists and music therapist Ira Altshuler, MD promoted music therapy in Michigan, Willem van de Wal, and E. Thayer Gaston.
  10. The first Music Therapy Degree Program took place in the year 1944.
  11. (NAMT) National Association of Music Therapy formed in 1950.
  12. (AAMT) American Association of Music Therapy formed in 1971.
  13. The American Music Therapy Association founded in 1998, a collaboration of NAMT and AAMT.


Types of Music Therapy :

There are various types of Music Therapies as follows:-

  1. Bonny Method

Helen Bonny, a music therapist, and researcher has introduced this method. The verbal counseling and psychotherapy are the basis of this method. It involves the imagination of the patient while listening to music. An interactive form of practice that lets the patient open up with the therapist. The therapist listens to the story of an individual, allows him/her to relax and focus, the person then dreams and thinks in trans about any situation. The description of the patient’s imagination is diagnosed by the doctor for further analysis and treatment.

  1. Dalcroze Eurhythmics

Jacques-Dalcroze invented this method. The movement of the patient is the first step in this method of therapy. It is beneficial for all age groups. This method believes in addressing the problem by tracking the movements of the patient, to bring back rhythm in them. The main three topics here are Solfege (harmony and ear-training), Eurhythmics (a rhythmic training), and improvisation. It creates physical awareness, control, and ease within the human body.

  1. Kodaly

Kodaly was curious about spreading music education to children in Hungary. He along with many music teachers developed a system of music teachings by systematically presenting the musical concepts. The rhythm, notations, orders, movement are used in the healing process. The pedagogical concepts are the foundations of this method. The child development approach includes skill development, according to his capability. The ascending order of difficulty level of patient’s behavior is followed in this concept.

  1. Neurologic Music Therapy

Many brain diseases need music therapy. To help brain patients to improve from their disorders this is one of the fine ways. Some of the diseases are listed as – Traumatic Brain Injury, Stroke, and Coma Recovery. It is based on neuroscience research. The process of listening to music and perceiving is the basis of this method. Music-creation activates the brain cells. The effects studied on the brain of a non- musical person showcases different aspects. This treatment includes attention, arousal, auditory perception, and memory. There is speech and language treatment that include aphasia, fluency, breath, intelligibility, and comprehension.

  1. Nordoff- Robbins

The output of seventeen years of friendship between Paul Nordoff and Clive Robbins. The basis of this therapy is the belief that every individual effectively responds to music.

  1. Orff – Schulwerk

Developed by Gertrude Orff, it is an approach used in music education. It uses various combinations of music, movements, drama, and speech to heal the patients. The main aim is to develop the person in a childlike approach for better results. It treats music as a language. Also known as elemental music-making. It improves the learning ability among children.  

Diseases Covered under Music Therapy are: 

1. Autism

Autism spectrum disorders are diseases with speech and communication problems. It is noteworthy to see how people suffering from such diseases incline to music.

  1. Dementia

The changes in the brain are known as dementia. The problems occurring in patients are that patients unable to make a decision, have memory and judgment issues, overthinking problems, and verbal communications. The personality disorders often prevail depending on the areas affected by the brain. The music therapy helps in avoiding agitated behavior and also helps in improving co-operation. The heart and brain diseases among Alzheimer patients is reduced due to music therapy.

3. Depression

The most common mental disease caused due to changes in the lifestyles of people. The mood disorder is dependent on the eating and living habits of the person. There are many antidepressant medicines, but the natural way to pass on depression or to get free is music. A thought process of an individual suffering from depression is different as compared to regular people. So music helps in soothing that effect.

4. Sleep Quality

Excessive sleeping is a disorder, which can be tiresome, depressive, or irritable. The chemical changes in the brain can make a person anxious and irritable. The better a person responds to the music, the better a person gets with time.


Indian music is an ocean of music formations for centuries in the form of classical form. The Sa, Re, Ga, Ma, Pa, Dha, Ni, Sa, are the eight surs used in Indian music. Ragas are the arrangement of notes in sequential order. The melodic occurrence of tones and musical notes is the basis of Indian music. In Indian Music, the efforts made to co-relate the music with emotions.

The different notations promote the health of the person. The comparison of music therapy to a person’s active life is evident. Playing, listening, and composing are some of the methods practiced in Indian Music. There can be structured or free-flowing therapy. Raga plays a vital part in the cure of patients. Indian music always enlightens the soul and showcases the ultimate goal of attainment of truth through music. The deep religious feelings have a positive impact on the listener and singer.  Self-image helps to overcome focus and concentration problems.

Cancer and Music Therapy

The feel-good factor enhances the mind of a patient. It brings a relaxing sensation to the body of the patient. The main role of music is a positive outlook on the patient. The patient is back on track if he has a healthy relationship with the therapist. Music cures the problems regarding anxiety.

 Music for Soldiers

Margaret Anderson gave the first training of music therapy to the soldiers. Many war veterans have been using this method to protect and heal the soldiers of war for centuries. In Civil Wars, World War I, and World War II, also the music was used in a form to entertain, distract, and boost morale. In the mid-1800s, Florence Nightingale realized the importance of music in life.


Music affects a person’s brain, body, hormones, and psyche. The therapy is a tool that grabs the threads of the patient’s weaknesses, forming a source of recovery. The positive effect on mood is a well-known fact. The variations in mood involve feelings of joy, sadness, angry, and relaxation, which may change as one listens to music. The selection of music is crucial for the desired effects of music on patients. It is used in various medical fields as a form of therapy. The brain runs varyingly for musicians than the non- musicians, if the effect of music on them studied is thorough and well researched. The large heavy metal type of music brings out the negative effect on psychology because of high and loud sound. Also, the physical injuries are calmed by listening to pacifying music.