What Music Therapy Can Do For You

The Benefits and Effects of Music Therapy

music therapist teaching a class

How often do you find yourself turning to music when you need a little pick-me-up? How often do you find that perfect song that makes you feel like you can conquer the world? How often do you play a sad song to make a sad situation better?

Music is widely known as a universal language, but it is often overlooked as a real form of therapeutic treatment to the average person. In fact, music therapy has been around since the early writings of Plato and Aristotle, as well as the aftermaths of both World Wars. By the way, check out Incadence if you're interested in working in the music therapy business or are looking for practioners.

Just like color therapy, the practice of music therapy is considered an “unconventional” form of therapy. I would strongly disagree. People use music therapy themselves in everyday life. When a trained professional can harness the power of music to help others, that is when it becomes a real asset to mental health.

A music therapist plays guitar with a patient who is playing a percussion instrument.
Music Therapist plays the guitar while patient plays percussion.

The Methods of Music Therapy

Different music therapy tactics

Music therapy has many different ways of reaching a patient. It’s not just about sitting someone down and saying, “Here, listen to this song”. Music therapy is a specific and measured process. According to the Positive Psychology website, it is all about the effort of the patient with participation. This would be referring to the modulation of attention, emotion, cognition, behavior, and communication. The modulation of attention acts almost as a distraction from the pain of the patient. The modulation of emotion can regulate the activity in the brain and certain regions in the brain. Modulation of cognition is essentially a workout for the mind. It is related to the process of memory and musical experiences. Modulating behavior provokes movement. I would best describe this as the inspiration to dance. Music itself is a conversation, so the use of music to find your words is healing. Some different techniques of music therapy include the actual playing of instruments. Drumming is a great example. The act of learning a percussive instrument tasks the brain as well as acting as a release of energy. There is no feeling in the world like the feeling of learning a measure of rhythms and playing it correctly. Another tactic is music assisted relaxation. This technique is connected to breathing techniques like deep breathing and muscle relaxation. Singing is also another great example. The projection of the voice is an incredibly vulnerable thing to do. For someone who is unable to open up through words, singing can be a gracious step in the right direction. Singing may often help you find your words. Some therapists will often task their clients with keeping a journal to hold their feelings and experiences. Writing music has a similar effect. Most patients won’t be musicians, but that won’t stop someone from learning. Writing song lyrics is creativity, and creativity is survival, Hayley WIlliams from Paramore often likes to say. There are a plethora of more music therapy techniques, but the last one I would like to talk about would be the dissection of meaning. Everyone has personal connections to songs. Finding those songs and discussion those meanings can often help you see into yourself and act as a guide to who you are and why you feel the way you do. No therapist uses just one technique. A good therapist would know when and what to use for that particular patient.

A group of musicians, two with guitars and the rest with their voices, play for their patients.
A group of music therapists playing and singing together.

Where to find Music Therapists

Local Music Therapy  

In the Pittsburgh area, Three Rivers Music Therapy is a great haven for people who feel they need help. “Three Rivers Music Therapy, LLC is a music therapy private practice serving those in western Pennsylvania. We provide individual, group and contract music therapy services to individuals of all ages and abilities. Three Rivers Music Therapy, LLC was established by Allison Broaddrick, MT-BC. Allison is a board-certified music therapist and a member of the American Music Therapy Association.” Allison has connections throughout the Pittsburgh area, making her a hometown hero. These connections extend to our on Kellee Maize. For those outside of the Pittsburgh area, the American Music Therapy Association is a great place to go to find information on the practice and be able to find practices near you. That website also details the early origins of Music therapy and properly educates you in the art of such therapy. If you are someone struggling with anxiety, depression, PTSD, or even the pain of loss, I urge you to consider music therapy as a proper path to mental health. The power of music is undeniable. Unconventional tactics may be just what you need. 


Stefan Triveri

Stefan Triveri is a musician and artist from Wheeling, WV.
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