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What is Music Therapy?

How Does Music Therapy Benefit Patients?

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Music therapists utilize music to treat a variety of social, psychological, and physiological conditions in patients of all ages. Music therapy is particularly useful with children, especially those with special needs, and with geriatric patients, and with special needs adults or people who are recuperating from a trauma or brain injury. For example, according to the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA), music therapy was an integral part of the recovery of Gabrielle Giffords, the Congresswoman who was shot in the head in 2011. Music can help stimulate memory, help patients regain movement, and help with language skills too, among other things.

"Clinical music therapy is a well-established, evidence-based health profession and emerging economic research has demonstrated its cost-effectiveness and impact on patient satisfaction," according to the AMTA. "Most people don't know that music therapy has positively impacted patients for 60+ years. Music therapy offers scientifically substantiated benefits not only to patients with brain injuries, but also to individuals with neurological conditions such as Alzheimer's disease and Autism. According to data compiled by the Cochrane Collaboration, music therapy also has been shown to have a positive impact on patients' pain levels, heart rates and overall sense of well-being.

The modern history of music therapy dates to World War II, when returning soldiers with mental health problems and what was then known as "shell shock" reacted favorably to music. It was quickly discovered that music could be used in all areas of treatment. Music therapy also has a positive impact on anyone facing illnesses or disabilities across the age span. New scientific techniques like PET scans and MRIs are also making it possible for medical experts to truly "see" how interventions by music therapists are addressing medical issues like strokes, dementia, and Parkinson's disease.

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