ed PeopleThe Effects of Music Therapy on Mentally Handicapped People
Music therapy is a controversial but effective form of rehabilitation on mentally handicapped people. A great amount of research has been completed on this subject. It has been proven that our brains respond to music as if it were medicine. Music therapy is not a commonly used health care, but recent studies have suggested it can have a wide range of benefits.
Music therapy is the prescribed use of music and related strategies, by a qualified therapist, to assist or motivate a person towards specific, non-musical goals. This process is used in order to restore, maintain, and improve emotional, physical, physiological, and spiritual health and well being. At the heart of music therapy is vibration. This is backed up by modern physics, which has taught us that all matter is in a constant state of vibration. Everything has a unique frequency. Illness occurs when some sort of dysfunctional vibration intrudes on the normal one. Sound can be used to change these intruders back to normal, healthy vibrations, which restores health.
Although music therapy is a fairly new method of health care, it dates back thousands of years. “The use of sound and music is the most ancient healing modality.” It was practiced in the ancient mystery schools of Egypt, India, and Rome for many thousands of years. In the Iliad, Apollo, the mythical god of music and medicine, stopped a plague because he was so pleased with the sacred hymns sung by Greek youths. Pythagoras, who discovered that all music could be expressed in numbers and mathematical formulas, founded a school that trained students to
release worry, fear, anger, and sorrow through singing and playing musical instruments.
Today, the power of music remains the same, but music is used much differently than it was in ancient times. Music therapy in the United States began in the late 18th century. The profession of it began to develop during World War II when music was used in Veterans Administration Hospitals, as an intervention to address traumatic war injuries. Veterans participated in music activities that focused on relieving pain perception. Many doctors and nurses could see the effect music had on their psychological and emotional state.
Since then, colleges developed programs to train musicians how to use music for therapeutic purposes. In 1950 a professional organization was formed by a group of music therapists that worked with veterans, mentally retarded, and the hearing and visually impaired. This was the beginning of the National Association for Music Therapy (NAMT). In 1998, NAMT joined with another music therapy organization to become what is now known as the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA). AMTA’s mission is “To advance public awareness of the benefits of music therapy and increase access to quality music therapy services in a rapidly changing world.”
Music therapy helps people in a crisis and assists those who may be dealing with issues of everyday living. The nature of music therapy encourages the development of positive self-esteem. Even though not everyone is supposed to be a musician, music therapy can be a way to explore the human need for self-expression and creativity. Through improvisation and song writing, it can
help to identify and resolve conflicts slowing down the emotional and personal growth. It can also assist in the rehabilitation of people with speech difficulties and facilitate learning, which provided opportunities for meaningful communication. Music therapy is a process which builds relationships. Because almost everyone responds to music at some level, it can be used to develop a trust relationship with the therapist and with other people.
There are many accomplishments that music therapy can make. It can manage pain, increase body movement, lower blood pressure, ease depression, and enhance concentration and creativity. These are just some of the few characteristics. It has been used in many other processes also.
It is important to be aware that while people may develop musical skills during treatment, these skills are not the main concern of the therapist. Rather it is the affect the musical development will have on the person’s physical and psychological functioning. You can find music therapists working with a wide variety of people. Some include the mentally ill, the physically handicapped, those who have been abused, the elderly, the terminally ill, and people with learning disabilities. Because traditional therapeutic remedies rely on language, their effectiveness depends on the person’s ability to verbally interact with the therapist. The language of music is available to everyone regardless of age, disability, or cultural background.
Studies have been made on the effects of chanting mantras on human physiology. It has been discovered that by repeating a single word, measurable changes are produced in energy consumption, respiration rate, heartbeat, pulse, and metabolic rate. Studies have further demonstrated that through meditation and relaxation, it’s possible to improve immune function
and alleviate and prevent heart disease, stroke, and many other chronic health problems.
The mentally ill are the people that are the most common clients of music therapy. These are people with behavior disorders and emotional disturbance. For these people, music improves self-esteem, reduces stress, develops leisure activities, and improves control over motor skills.
Learning disabled individuals are another popular group of people for which music therapy is used. This group is explained as having a disorder that affects one or more psychological process involved in understanding or using language. Such disorders may affect an individual’s ability to think, listen, speak, read, or write. The need for individualized instruction, repetition, and face to face interaction is necessary for improvement.
To become a qualified music therapist you must have an undergraduate and/or graduate degree in music therapy from university programs approved by the AMTA. You follow your degree with six months of full-time supervised clinical training. You must then be board-certified by the certification Board for Music Therapy and take a national exam. You maintain your status through continuing education and retesting.
Members of the client’s treatment team prescribe music therapy. Members can include doctors, social workers, psychologists, teachers, caseworkers, and parents. Music therapists use their training as musicians, clinicians, and researchers to effect changes in physical communication, social skills, and emotional skills. They use musical experiences such as singing, playing instruments, moving, listening, composing, and improving self-awareness and growth.
Musical interventions are developed and used by the therapist based on his or her knowledge of the music’s effect on behavior, the client’s strengths and weaknesses, and the therapeutic goals.
Music therapists choose from a large amount of music activities and interventions. For example, the therapist and client might compose songs for the purpose of expression of feelings; one client might learn how to play the piano for the purpose of improving fine motor skills, while another client might use instruments to improvise unspoken emotions.
Each client has to determine his or her own needs, strengths, and interests. Sessions are then designed to meet the specific needs of each client. Progress is evaluated in consultation with the client or the family of the client. This helps to maximize the emotional, physical and cognitive potential of each client.
The sessions include a variety of musical experiences. For example, a person who is terminally ill might benefit from song writing to express inner feeling. A troubled adolescent might benefit from listening and discussing the lyrics. Improvisation might be the preferred activity for a person with autism while learning to play a simple instrument could enhance the self-esteem of a mentally retarded adult. For a geriatric client, a music therapist might use familiar songs to reveal past memories, and for a child with Down’s Syndrome, singing might be used to improve auditory discrimination. These are only a few examples of music therapy techniques. The possibilities are endless and are focused on the responses of the client and the creativity of the therapist.
Back in the 1960’s, a physician was called to investigate a strange disease that had taken over a monastery of Benedictine monks in the south of France. Out of the blue, the brothers had become tired and depressed. Once other medical authorities had ruled out physical causes, the physician began to search for changes in their diet or work conditions but discovered none. After a long discussion with the monks, he learned that before they became sick, the monks used to gather eight or nine times a day and chant for 10 to 20 minutes. But thanks to the reforms of Vatican II, their daily chanting had been reduced by several hours a day. It dawned on the physician that the physiological benefits of their chanting, slowing down their breathing and lowering their blood pressure, were the cause of the monks tiredness. His solution was restoring their habit of chants. The effects were dramatic. Within six months, the monks were back to their old vigorous and healthy selves.
A sixty-year-old physician, Pete, was driving to work when he recognized the symptoms of a stroke. He pulled into a gas station, leaned on his horn and asked the attendant to call an ambulance to take him to a hospital. The only movement he had was his eyelids, and his only means of communication was blinking once for yes, twice for no.
A few weeks later, Pete’s wife called in a guy who was a composer, music researcher, teacher, and healer. He suggested they play as much Mozart as possible in the household. For the next few weeks the healer would come to the house and sit at the side of Pete’s bed and tap syllables of words into Pete’s hand in a rhythmic like beat. This is called an integrated auditory
pattern, which enabled Pete to begin to reconnect with the outside world.
Three years after participating in Pete’s rehabilitation, the healer learned that he had a potentially fatal blood clot in an artery just below his brain. The healer, who had spent ten years investigating the effects of sound on the body, knew much about therapeutic uses of music. The men decided to wait a while to see any changes before any surgery would take place. They simply hummed, fearful that a more powerful sound might bring on a stroke. He did this for three weeks, and while humming he meditated on healing images. When he went back for his second brain scan, the results showed that the blood clot had shrunk incredibly from its original size and Pete was said to be out of danger.
In 1996, researchers tried giving ten stroke victims thirty minutes of rhythmic stimulation each day for three weeks. Compared with untreated patients, they showed significant improvements in their ability to walk steadily.
Moods rose and depression fell for twenty women and men who listened to familiar music they selected while practicing various stress-reduction techniques. Classical and New Age music helped twenty-four of twenty-five people with sleeping problems get to sleep faster, sleep for longer periods of time, and get back to sleep more easily after waking in the middle of the night. The best kind of music for sleep deprivation is songs with slow movements from classical music of all periods.
Don Campbell, a music therapist, offers some simple exercises you can try on your own.
If you’re tired and need some “sonic caffeine,” hum a long “e” sound for three minutes. For a
relaxation make a long “o” or “ah” sound. Most of us even practice our own version of music
therapy instinctively. A mother naturally sings to soothe her baby. When we’re depressed, we play or make our favorite music, either to lift us out of our gloom, or to intensify it, and when we’re happy we play joyous music to liven the mood even more.
The following suggestions are more experiments to try on your own. Raise your sound awareness by noticing the sounds around you in everyday life. This enhances your communication skills by improving your listening skills. Play your favorite music when you do housework. Not only will it distract you, but it will also motivate you and create pleasant feelings for that activity. When you’re angry or frustrated, play an energetic piece of music. Move your body for five to seven minutes, letting the music release your emotions. Then your mind can look at the situation with a brighter outlook. If you want a deep relaxation but have problems with formal meditation, sit somewhere quiet, hum or chant different vowel sounds and “direct” them to various parts of your body. When we create and focus on sound, we begin to stop the constant thoughts in our minds, which is the first step to deep relaxation.
Even though you have inquired all this information, you might still be wondering how such simple things like music and rhythm could work all this magic. Well, no one really knows. It is a mystery. But researchers have known for a long time that listening to music can directly influence pulse, blood pressure, and the electrical activity of muscles. Neuroscientists now suspect that
music can actually help build and strengthen connections among nerve cells. Although many
people will not agree with or even believe all the wonderful acts that music can do, it can be a highly effective form of rehabilitation for anyone.