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 Alternative Medicine

October 2009
Music Therapy
Dr Thirumalachari Mythily
 
Music Therapy is one of the alternative forms of therapeutic treatments. It is defined as the planned and creative use of music to attain and maintain health and wellbeing. Individuals of any age and ability may benefit from a music therapy program, regardless of their musical skill or background. Music therapy may address physical, psychological, emotional, cognitive and social needs, with therapeutic relationships.
 

It focuses on meeting therapeutic aims, which distinguishes it from musical entertainment or musical education.

Music therapy is the therapeutic application of music with proper methodologies and procedure, by a trained music-therapist, to restore, maintain or enhance the cognitive, socio-emotional and physical functioning of normal/ disabled persons of all ages.

The Flow of Music
Scientifically, many things happen in our body while we are listening to music. While 'participating' (not necessarily being on the stage) in a live music session, the music affects many parts of our brain's functions in a coordinated pattern helping us to enjoy the music (if we are well versed in it). The mind has the tendency to relate or identify things in a known pattern and accordingly come to a conclusion through our expressed behaviour. But if we let the music just 'flow' into us without getting into pondering over the nuances or intricacies of the particular piece (provided for the therapeutic purposes) it does wonders with the patients / The healing effect on individuals with music is a known fact since centuries. But the quality of exposure to the music with its specifications and other procedures plays a very vital role in speaking about its healing aspect.

Instrumental Music
Therapeutic music mostly is played as instrumentals, without lyrics, to help one not ponder over the particular piece. When classical music is being played through a string instrument with its notes, the impact is complete. Specific notes being presented in the classical flair impact well on the individuals. The music, when essayed in the classical format with its notes, emanates a certain frequency and wavelength in the atmosphere and has an enormous impact on the listeners. This music helps in the quality of neurotransmitters secreted in brain and thus, the behaviour of the individual!

Types of Music Therapy
Music therapy is helpful in both forms - sickness and wellness - in the medical industry. It helps restore good health, and to maintain the same. There are two types, the active mode and the passive mode of music therapy. The active mode requires participation of the patients in the music therapy sessions, while the passive mode of music therapy requires mere involved listening. In the medical field, passive form of music therapy plays a dominant role in the betterment of the patients.

The active mode of music therapy is useful in paediatric areas and in a few of the neurological problems. In the paediatric areas, the active mode of music therapy helps the hyperactive child reduce the over-activity over a given period of time, and enhances the quality of concentration in the child. With regard to speech difficulties in children, this active mode enhances the quality of fluency in speech. Music training also enhances the verbal memory improvement in children. Many of the behaviour problems in children, developmental delays and other problematic behaviours also may be attended through active mode of music therapy.

The active form of music therapy is being utilized in many areas of paediatrics, and in geriatrics, to retrieve the memory of old people having neurological disorders. In paediatrics, hyperactive children's over activity has been reduced by regularly exposing the children to one or two sessions of active form of music therapy in a week.

In a group of 40 children, diagnosed as hyperactive, on medication to reduce their hyperactivity, music therapy was used successfully to overcome their problems. Since the medicine in children is effective only for four to six hours – after this to control their overactivity, music therapy was used for a stipulated period for the group as a whole, every day at a given time. This group therapy of music focussed on a number of actions of each child, and worked as a diversion for them. Over a period of eight to twelve weeks, the children were observed and to everybody's surprise the over-activity levels were reduced. Almost all the children in the group were benefitted by this therapy.

Music therapy in expressive behaviour, imagination development in children, and projecting the ideas while participating etc., are all feasible in this active mode. In the neurological areas - the neurological aphasia - both the receptive and expressive aphasia may get the necessary stimulation, required to bring back the needed communication in patients. The lyrics in active music surely trigger the memory folders in the patient's brain and help to revive the same. The passive mode of music therapy may surely be implemented in almost in all areas of medical field as an alternative or as an adjunct or as a complement to medicine. So when you are listening to any sounds on this Diwali or whenever, remember that there is a way to make it therapeutic to your body in the long term, with the benefits similar to when you take a pill or an injection! Just that you would need a music therapist's advise on the kind of music and its dosages to treat your particular ailment.

Musical Facts
The 20th century discipline of music therapy began after World War I and II in USA when community musicians of all types, both amateur and professional, went to hospitals around the country to play for the thousands of war veterans suffering both physical and emotional trauma from the wars. The patients' notable physical and emotional responses to music led the doctors and nurses to request the hiring of musicians by the hospitals.

Research has shown that music with a strong beat can stimulate brainwaves to resonate in sync with the beat, with faster beats bringing sharper concentration and more alert thinking. A slower tempo promotes a calm, meditative state.
Dr Thirumalachari Mythily is Cognitive Neuro Psychologist and Music Therapist at Apollo Hospitals, Chennai

    
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