Can music therapy help your mental health?

By Rachel Kirsch on 19th Sep 2019

In the car. On a run. Sitting at your desk. Folding laundry. Working in the yard. How often and where do you find yourself listening to music? For most people, music is an important part of their life. It’s something that is involved in their everyday activities. It can positively or negatively impact a person’s mood, depending on the genre and song. Music can create exciting, happy memories, or it can create sorrowful ones. For some people, it can also be so much more.

According to the American Music Therapy Association, music therapy is an established health profession in which music is used within a therapeutic relationship to address physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs of individuals. Music therapy can include creating, singing, moving to, and/or listening to music (AMTA, 2006).

Music therapy can be beneficial is a number of ways. It is designed to help with emotional support, motor development, pain/anxiety management, family support, socialization, and others.

Music therapy first began in the late 1700s, and has only become more relevant. In 1950, the National Association for Music Therapy (NAMT) was founded. Following that, the American Association for Music Therapy (AAMT) was established in 1971. Most recently, the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA) was formed in 1998 as a merger between the NAMT and the AAMT (AMTA, 2006).

According to Kameri Muir, a music therapist in Nashville, “Music therapists are certified professionals who are trained to use music as a tool to creatively improve a person’s health under a variety of circumstances. Whatever the need is, a music therapist will create a specific plan for how to utilize music to reach a series of non-musical goals and objectives.” Carrie Friddell, a local music therapist of In Harmony Music of Middle Tennessee, says that music therapists use music to assess the “whole'” person in areas of cognition, physical movement in gross and fine motor skills, sensory processing, and some musicality.

Whatever the need is, a music therapist will create a specific plan for how to utilize music to reach a series of non-musical goals and objectives.

However, music ability or talent is not a prerequisite. Music is universally enjoyed by all people in some form or fashion and I am trained to start with what types of music a client prefers. This helps with motivation. Music Therapy can stand alone as a therapy or it can enhance and work with other interdisciplinary teams with a speech therapist, family therapists, doctors, nurses and caregivers to enhance a person’s holistic care.

Ms Friddell goes on to say, “Once I was enrolled in a college program to earn my equivalency degree in Music Therapy, I never looked back. Practicing music therapy with children and adults has become a passion and drives me to be a better musician and therapist.”

Her motto is “music promotes the person”. She says that people come alive to their favorite music and it is motivation for change and growth.

Contrary to music therapy stereotypes, there is a thorough amount of schooling involved. Local music therapist, Dana Kim, who works at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, stated, “Board-certified music therapists have extensive training including a four-year bachelor’s degree and often an additional master’s degree which includes courses in anatomy, psychology, music, counseling, and over 1200 hours of clinical training experience on how to utilize the medium of music to achieve specific, individualized health care goals.”

“Beyond being an innovative, non-invasive treatment that often increases patient satisfaction, music therapy is also cost-effective,” stated Ms. Kim. “There is a growing body of research demonstrating the cost-effectiveness of music therapy in a variety of healthcare settings. Specific to pediatric hospitals, music therapy has been shown to decrease the length of stay for premature infants in the neonatal intensive care unit by up to five days, which may translate into thousands of dollars saved (Standley, 1998).”

Ms. Friddell wants to inform the public that music therapy can enrich lives, bring a unique assist into educational settings, increase health and wellness, bring respite to a hospice setting, help support mental health and so much more. For more information about music therapy check out these resources:

American Music Therapy Association:

Certifying Board for Music Therapy:

Tennessee Association for Music Therapy:

In Harmony Music of Middle Tennessee:

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