These days it’s difficult to say whether the methods we employ to increase our well-being are scams by drug companies or life-saving practices. Honestly, I’d rather believe that the power to heal myself lies largely in my own hands and without the use of dangerous and addictive drugs. So, if drugs are not the answer, then what is?
People have been searching for alternative methods of dealing with stress, pain, bereavement, learning difficulties, during palliative care (end of life) and simply as a way of getting to know oneself. Therapy is, of course, one common method of addressing these factors but how does one know what type of therapy is suitable? Allow me to be precocious and lead you gently down the path towards the world of music therapy.
There are many reasons why one would choose to participate in music therapy. The effects of this art form vary incredibly; music helps to lower stress hormones, boost endorphins, stimulate neural connections, aid with social bonding, helps nurture a deeper understanding of oneself and one’s surroundings… The list is endless. (Of course, this is not to say that music therapy trumps all other types of therapy and healing – it is simply one approach).
Perhaps it’s difficult to imagine that music – something which is so common and present in our everyday lives – can have such an impact on our lives? How is it that there is pain, suffering, upset in the world when people listen to music constantly? If music is so effective, how come it isn’t used world wide as a way of treating depression? How is there any illness at all if music exists?
The answer is simple. Relationships. Connections. The difference between everyday music listening/playing and music created in therapy is the relationship between client and therapist. It is true; anyone can sit in a chair and listen to music or play an instrument, yet it is the bond between therapist and client which acts as a catalyst for comprehension and understanding. The therapist is the pillar of support for the client yet the music enables emotional and social development. The bond between therapist and client is essential, yet music acts as the glue between them and helps initially to build a trusting relationship between the two.
The power of music and its influence on us is not a modern concept. As far back as Plato, music was assigned huge importance and was viewed as something supreme, almost omnipotent. Indeed, Plato refers to music as having the capability of healing:
Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, light to the imagination, a charm to sadness and life to everything.
If music was viewed in such a light in the 5th century BC with little knowledge of the physiological effects, knowledge of how it can transform our lives today holds – if possible – even stronger.
Moral of the story: utilise every chance to get to know yourself; utilise every chance to get to know others; utilise every chance you get to enjoy the magic of music. Even if music therapy is not a miracle treatment, neither is it hocus pocus. Don’t miss out on the chance to use a mighty art to transform how you see yourself and the world.