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Music therapy

Consists of using a person’s responses and connections to music to stimulate positive changes in mood and general well-being

As IDEAT points us out, music therapy consists of using a person’s responses and connections to music to stimulate positive changes in mood and general well-being. Music therapy can include creating music with instruments of all kinds, singing, moving to the music, or just listening to it.

The word “music therapy”, according to The World Music Therapy Federation, refers to the use of music and / or its elements (sound, rhythm, melody, harmony) performed by a qualified music therapist with a patient or group, in a process created to facilitate and promote communication, relationships, learning, movement, expression, organization, and other relevant therapeutic goals to meet physical, emotional, mental, social, and cognitive needs. Its purpose is to develop potential and / or restore the functions of the individual in such a way that he can achieve a better intra- and / or interpersonal integration and consequently a better quality of life through prevention, rehabilitation, and treatment.

Various studies show us that music affects the whole human being: biologically, physically, neurologically, psychologically, socially, and spiritually (Poch, 2001).

Music therapy is based on this principle and is the use of music and its elements by a qualified music therapist, in different areas (medical, educational, daily …) individually or in groups, whose purpose is to optimize the quality of life, improve physical, social, communicative, emotional, and intellectual health and well-being. It is applied to achieve different therapeutic objectives and aims to establish an alternative channel of communication and expression.


Because it has been shown to have benefits at different levels.

  • Physiologically it can produce changes in respiration, heart rate, immune system, resistance to pain, muscle activity …
  • On an emotional level, music therapy facilitates the expression and release of emotions, modifies the mood, reduces the level of anxiety …
  • In the cognitive dimension, it increases attention and concentration, helps developing memory, stimulates imagination and creativity, exercises intelligence…
  • Socially it facilitates and promotes communication at a verbal and non-verbal level, encourages cohesion and group participation …

Music used as therapy provides our spirit with a feeling of peace, harmony, well-being, and serenity.

All this contributes to the achievement of the main objective of this discipline, to increase the quality of life and improve health at all levels, whether there is a pathology prior to the musical-therapeutic intervention.

According to Davis, Gfeller and Thaut, (2002), the objectives in this area could be grouped into 5 categories:

  1. Social and emotional behaviors: to acquire social skills, structured music-therapeutic activities are used, which incorporate movement, songs and rhythmic activities that can offer the necessary stimulation to acquire appropriate social skills. Regarding emotional development, it is possible to work from the recognition and association of one’s own musical identity and / or that of the environment. The music at this point will provide signs of emotional recognition. On the other hand, it will be a strong driver of personal emotional expression.
  2. Motor skills: music par excellence is a powerful stimulus for motor development. This type of activity will allow the person to explore their own body through free and guided movement. Skills related to concepts such as laterality, directionality, flexibility, and agility are also worked on, and on the other hand, fine motor skills can be enhanced through the performance of instruments as well as artistic expression activities together with those of musical expression.
  3. Communication skills: music therapy will enhance the development of communication skills, since through sound and its components, a therapist can help a patient to develop expressive and receptive language, communicative intention, active listening, and the ability to follow slogans. On the other hand, music can help to develop skills such as sound recognition, differentiation, and discrimination and, fundamentally, to become aware of the sound environment.
  4. Support to enhance the cognitive area: through musical games such as the repetition of sounds and / or following instructions from repetitive songs in their lyrics, it can be an effective means to achieve progress in this area. In the same way, either with the use of musical instruments or objects of daily use to which we assign musical functions, we can contribute to the development of cognitive skills, through the differentiation or classification of sounds.
  5. Music as a Leisure Activity: through music therapy, people can be encouraged to use music in their free time.


This can be done individually or in a group, according to the needs of each person.

In the first place, an initial assessment of the person who is going to be the object of the intervention is made (which are their needs, what do they want to achieve, whether or not there is a pathology, what are their limitations, if any, and information at a medical and psychology if necessary), then a musical assessment is made to see how the patient reacts to music and how they relate to it, what their tastes are, motor or body expression deficiencies are also detected, if any.

Once the person has been evaluated, some general and specific objectives are set to guide the intervention.

The duration of the sessions is usually approximately 45 minutes, and the duration of the treatment depends on the needs of each person.


The music therapist uses music as the main intervention tool, presented through different techniques.

These are:

  1. Responsive methods.
  2. Expressive methods.

The denomination of active or passive corresponds to the fact of implying an external or internal action by the patient.

Expressive methods involve visible action, such as playing an instrument, dancing, singing, etc. On the other hand, receptive methods do not seem to involve external or physical action, as in musical listening, although they logically suppose an internal and essential activity, by causing changes in mood (Poch, 2008).

Research, practice, education, and clinical instruction in music therapy are based on professional standards according to cultural, social, and political contexts.

Bruscia (1989) defines the music-therapeutic process as follows: (…) For the client, therapy is a process of gradual change towards a desired state; for the therapist, it is a systematic sequence of interventions aimed at achieving specific changes in the client.

According to this author, music therapy as a systematized and methodological process is carried out in three stages, which can be carried out separately or simultaneously: diagnosis, treatment and evaluation:

  • The first instance of diagnosis, depending on the objectives of the therapist, serves, as the name of the stage supports, to make a diagnosis, a clinical interpretation, describe, determine a specific treatment for the patient or evaluate to later reevaluate and record differences.
  • The second stage of the therapeutic process is that of treatment, where work is directed through strategies to achieve the proposed goals based on the needs, problems and resources of the patient revealed during the diagnostic stage. Each session engages the client in musical experience. Bruscia classifies experiences into four types:
  1. Improvisation. The client creates their own music by singing or playing an instrument.
  2. Recreation. The client sings a song, or plays a piece of music already composed, from memory or by reading music.
  3. Composition. It is composed based on musical structures.
  4. Listen. Of recorded or live music.
  • In the third stage of evaluation, it is determined whether the patient’s conditions have been modified through the music-therapeutic process.

Music therapy is developed professionally both in the public and private spheres, in group and individual approaches, in prevention, promotion, recovery and rehabilitation of health. The work methodologies vary according to the population and the schools and theoretical constructs that support the work of the music therapist.

Music therapy activity

The therapist can work with receptive musical imagery, improvisation, song performance, clinical song creation, and therapeutic vocal technique, among others. In this process, music therapy promotes and records expressive, receptive, and relational changes that monitors the evolution of the treatment. In music therapy sessions, musical instruments, edited music, recordings, body sounds, voice and other sound materials are used.

Music therapy does not consider that music by itself can heal; there are no general musical recipes to feel better. Nor can the same treatment be used for two cases, when working with the singularity, each approach is different.

However, music therapy must have medical, psychological, pedagogical, and musical knowledge, but without becoming a doctor, psychologist, musician, etc. They must be, above all, a therapist, with a great theoretical and practical knowledge of the world of sound, music, and movement. Like any other profession, music therapy needs constant training that covers all its fields, and, above all, the work must be supervised by other colleagues or professionals.

The elements of music in music-therapeutic work

It is impossible to predict the effects that the influence of each of the elements of music can produce on a subject. According to the developments of the Norwegian music therapist Dr. Even Ruud, the musical experience or the significant response to music is entirely colored by the musical biography of the listener, that is, by their specific historical or cultural situation. From this perspective, the experience that is experienced when listening to music does not constitute a natural or universal response to music, but rather a way of relating to culture, a way of building a personal identity.

Research in music psychology and anthropology shows that music is perceived and responded to individually, or in accordance with certain cultural norms. The meaning extracted from music by each person, the values ​​attributed, and the actions that arise from their influence, are not predictable in the implicit ethnocentric sense in most of the research on the effects of music.

It is true that music can penetrate the deepest corner of the soul of a human being, and it is not surprising that for centuries it has been considered as a therapeutic tool. Because music is much more than a succession of notes, music touches the hidden feelings, inspires when writing, alludes to a specific moment in which a song was played in the background, hates or is passionate, but music always has an effect. Learning to channel this effect, whether by listening to or creating music with instruments and orienting it to therapeutic purposes, may help to connect with oneself in a way that rarely happens.


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