Music therapy belongs to the group of expressive therapies and is characterised by the use of music to increase mental health. Music therapy, respectively called an art and a science, should be performed by a trained music therapist. However, there is also the possibility of self-treatment available in music therapy. In general, patients are referred to music therapists by their physician or psychologist. Moreover, music therapy is also used in public institutions such as hospitals, schools, correctional facilities, alcohol and drug recovery programmes or cancer centres.
In music therapy, music and its connection to physical, emotional, mental, social, aesthetic and spiritual issues is applied to clients who would like to either improve their mental health or hinder it from further deteriorating. To achieve these effects, music therapists offer their clients a wide range of activities connected to music and music making, such as free improvisation, singing, writing songs, listening to and then discussing pieces of music and also moving to music. With these activities, clients have good chances of reaching treatment goals since music has beneficial effects on cognitive functions, motor skills, a person’s emotional as well as affective development, their behaviour and social skills, and their quality of life in general.
There are a few fields where music therapy is frequently applied because it has shown significant success. For example clients are often persons who suffered from a stroke: Music therapy in the form of rhythmic training is used as treatment for their physical rehabilitation. Music therapy is also a popular therapy for the elderly: Listening to music and also trying out songwriting can help them remember or retrieve their orientation. Furthermore, music therapy can be used in special cases where clients have individual needs in areas such as communication or motor skills.
Music therapy can be effective with children but therapy rooms should consequently be adapted to their needs by displaying different colours or textures. What is also important is that the therapist does not demand too much of the child: Some children will already be familiar with a certain instrument while others may not and should therefore be given something easier to start with. A trend that has become increasingly popular in recent years is playing music to babies and fetuses since even an unborn child has the ability to perceive music.