Music and Medicine 

You might have heard of the term music therapy but do you know what it is? Do you know how it works and who it treats?

You might have heard of the term music therapy but do you know what it is? Do you know how it works and who it treats?

History of Music Therapy

Music therapy is as old as the old writings of Aristotle and Plato. It is a therapeutic technique used to provide support and care to people who have been injured or ill, as well as assist them with their emotional and communication needs. The first mention of music therapy appeared in an unsigned piece in 1789 in a Columbian magazine with an article entitled “Music Physically Considered”. More than 60 years after that, the Nordoff-Robbins approach to music therapy came to prominence. It was officially introduced in the 1950s and 1960s by Paul Nordoff and Clive Robbins. This approach stated that everyone is sensitive to music and has the ability to use it for personal growth. 


Music therapy can be used to help people of all ages communicate. Some illnesses that can be addressed through music therapy include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), learning impairments, autism spectrum disorders, and neurological disabilities. Music establishes people’s relationship with the world through engagement with a music therapist. Music lets patients express themselves by allowing them to develop their own musical language.

Patients normally have one-on-one music therapy sessions, but can also request group sessions if they’d like. These sessions begin with a discussion of the patient’s life goals, as well as their expectations for the course’s result. Then songs from various genres will be performed; some will be instrumental only, while others will include lyrics. They can even range from being uplifting to depressing. Some patients are even instructed to write their own songs, with the goal of allowing them to express themselves via music. For example, if their song has dissonances or has loud and quick beats, it may indicate that the patient is angry. This allows patients who are unable to talk to express their feelings rather than suppressing them and suffering alone. The music therapist will then play songs that are the opposite of how the patient is feeling, in this case, soft beats and pleasant sounds. The patients may be instructed to sway, sing, or dance to the music. Although there are no set locations for therapy, it is crucial to ensure that the environment is welcoming and private, as, in more public areas, the patient may be embarrassed and hesitant to speak up. 

There are various types of music therapy. As stated in the introduction, some patients use the Nordoff-Robbins technique, a technique where it is thought that everyone is sensitive to music. Analytical music therapy is another type of music therapy. It allows patients to improvise and express themselves by singing or playing an instrument to convey their deepest thoughts, which are then analysed by a therapist. Benenzon music therapy seeks to match the patient’s sentiments to the closest melodic song, while vocal psychotherapy aims to connect the patient with themselves through singing. The Bonny Method of Guided Imaging and Music (GIM) is an intriguing sort of music therapy which allows patients to listen to classical music while being guided to imagination. This helps patients express their emotions, recall prior memories, and predict future scenarios based on what they expect to experience and how they feel at the time. In addition, cognitive behavioural music therapy (CBMT) combines music with cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). The goal of cognitive behavioural therapy is to improve depression and anxiety symptoms by improving some behaviours and changing others. These are not the only types of music therapy that can aid patients. There are many more that can help them before, during, and after their recovery.


Some people believe that music therapy is exclusively beneficial to patients with mental illnesses; however, this is not the case. Alzheimer’s disease, traumatic brain injury (TBI), and schizophrenia are just a few of the conditions that music therapy may help with. It can also aid in the recovery from an accident, as well as issues associated with childbirth. Music therapy can assist youngsters in establishing their individuality and ambitions and help them improve their communication skills with others.

With the help of the British Association for Music Therapy (BAMT), which was founded in 2011, music therapy is starting to gain popularity in the United Kingdom. The organization’s goal is to get more individuals involved in music therapy by providing courses and events for professionals. Furthermore, a music therapist is considered a healthcare practitioner and someone who can collaborate with other healthcare experts as part of a multidisciplinary team (MDT). Music can always be viewed as a form of therapy, and some doctors may send you to a music therapist following treatment in order to help you avoid post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Apart from that, Levitin noted in his book, This Is Your Brain on Music that “We’ve found compelling evidence that musical interventions can play a health-care role in settings ranging from operating rooms to family clinics”. This demonstrates how music can have an impact on everyone, including healthcare workers, by reducing stress. Furthermore, it is important to listen to music, especially in certain situations, such as the  Covid-19 outbreak. Listening to music eliminates stress and allows for a cheerful attitude. Second, it is proven that immunoglobulin, a natural killer cell that strengthens the immune system, can be produced more effectively by playing and listening to music.

Music therapy is commonly employed in religious studies all over the world. Sacred music therapy, for example, is used in North India. Indians consider diseases to be spiritual rather than microbiological. As a result, ailments are linked to demons, and they are treated by village healers who specialise in anything related to spirits. These village healers attempted to employ “sound cures” on human minds and physiology.

Finally, Music therapy, which helps improve sleep quality is beneficial to everyone regardless of whether they are sick, and should be widely encouraged.  It aids in the development of both physical and psychological states, and also lowers heart rate, blood pressure and breathing rate.

Mary Ho Yan Mak, Youth Medical Journal 2022


By Mary Ho Yan Mak

Hello, my name is Mary, and I am from Hong Kong. I am now in year 12 in the UK and intend to pursue a career in medicine. I'm primarily interested in paediatrics, but I'd like to learn about a variety of medical areas to broaden my medical knowledge and experience.

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