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    Benefits of Music Therapy for Mental Health

    music therapy for mental health

    Music and emotions are tightly intertwined. Think about your favorite song – it probably makes you smile. Just hearing a lone bugle playing "Taps" can bring the most hardened soldier to tears. Music is a powerful force because it helps us experience feelings we otherwise might not notice – or are avoiding altogether.

    When emotions – particularly painful or sad ones – are avoided, ignored or left unexpressed, our emotional health suffers. Our feelings are a personal, private part of each of us. They can be confusing – and scary – sometimes.

    Opening up and talking about our emotions isn't easy. We need an avenue to access those feelings – a way to express them and, ultimately, to gain control over them. Research shows music can help. In fact, music therapy is a powerful tool for helping people deal with difficult emotions.

    Background
    You might not have heard of music therapy, but it's been recognized by mental health professionals for many years. Music therapy's roots date back to just after World War II, when musicians played for veterans in hospitals and rehabilitation facilities. As the musicians worked with the veterans, clinical staff members noticed positive changes. The veterans were more positive and functioned better. Clinicians concluded that the music made a difference, establishing a strong link between music therapy and mental health.

    Music therapy is a growing field. Today, music therapists work with a wide range of people. Music therapists work in mental health practice, special education, hospice, nursing homes, substance abuse facilities and hospitals. Today's music therapists specialize in mental health and have additional training in advanced music therapy techniques. Some music therapists are self-employed. Music therapists can provide assessment, consultation and treatment services for children and adults.

    Research in Music Therapy
    The American Music Therapy Association (AMTA) publishes research about the benefits of music therapy. Here are some of the benefits of music therapy:

    • Reduced muscle tension
    • Improved self-image/increased self-esteem
    • Decreased anxiety/agitation
    • Increased verbalization
    • Enhanced interpersonal relationships
    • Improved comfort in groups
    • Increased motivation
    • Successful and safe exploration of emotions

    To learn more about music therapy, visit the AMTA website at http://www.musictherapy.org

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