Power of Music by Louis Gallait. A brother and sister resting before an old tomb. The brother is attempting to comfort his sibling by playing the violin, and she has fallen into a deep sleep, "oblivious of all grief, mental and physical".
Music Therapy or Sound Therapy, as it is referred to today, is a treatment modality used in Naturopathy Medicine. Sound therapy is an Integrative Medicine Practice and one of the expressive therapies, in which a Sound Therapist uses music, sound, vibration and all of its facets—physical, emotional, mental, social, aesthetic, and spiritual—to help clients improve their physical, emotional and mental health. Sound therapists primarily help clients improve their health in several domains, such as cognitive functioning, motor skills, emotional development, social skills, and quality of life, by using music and sound experiences such as free improvisation, singing or toning, listening to and moving to music to achieve treatment goals. Clients can choose to pursue music therapy services without a referral.
Music and Sound Therapy is as old as our written knowledge of music and has been used for generations to bring peace and balance. Pythagoras, who is the contemporary of the Buddha (lived around 600BC), is known as the Father of Mathematics, Geometry and Music and created the musical intervals. He taught that one could heal using sound. He applied the principles of harmonics to everything from music, to art, to architecture, to healing.
Science has proved what Sound Healers have been saying for centuries, the body is the best healer. When balanced and harmonious it knows exactly what to do. Sound is a tool that can help you tap into the balance, harmony and healing that is innately within you. Beating a drum, playing a singing bowl or specially tuned auto harp and chanting a mantra can all have a harmonizing effect.
Something as simple as sitting and listening to the sounds of nature can have a healing effect on your well-being and since 90% of disease is caused by stress, imagine how beneficial this can be. Did you know that when the sound of a cricket is slowed significantly, it is a more beautiful music than any symphony?
Because everyone is different, we all “resonate” with various music and sounds. For instance, a boy in a coma was played classical music to help his body to relax in the hopes he would heal from his injuries. The classical music agitated the boy and caused his heart rate to sky rocket dangerously. The sound therapist tried different sounds and music and found what actually helped the boy to calm was rap music. His heart rate instantly lowered to normal levels.
Music/Sound therapists are found in nearly every area of the helping professions. Some commonly found practices include developmental work with individuals with special needs, such as autism and ADD. Listening to music from their earlier years is very beneficial with the elderly and Hospice patients, and rhythmic entertainment helps with physical rehabilitation in stroke victims.
Music/Sound therapy is also used in some medical hospitals, has been shown to provide reduced pain for cancer patients. More recently we are seeing Sound and Music Therapy used in schools, alcohol and drug recovery programs, psychiatric hospitals, and correctional facilities.
Music therapy comes in two different forms: active and receptive. In active therapy, the therapist and patient actively participate in creating music with instruments, their voice, or other objects. This allows for the patient to be creative and expressive through the art of music. Receptive therapy takes place in a more relaxed setting where the therapist plays or makes music to the patient who is free to draw, listen or meditate. Additionally, the instruments can be placed on the body and played, allowing for full experience of the sounds and vibrations. Usually the therapist determines the method unless specifically requested by the patient.
Music has been found to be an effective tool for music therapists through extensive research. It is beneficial for any individual, both physically and mentally, through improved heart rate, reduced anxiety, stimulation of the brain, and improved learning. Sound therapists use their techniques to help their patients in many areas, ranging from stress relief before and after surgeries, to mental disabilities such as Alzheimer's disease. One study found that children who listened to music while having an IV inserted into their arms showed less distress and felt less pain than the children who did not listen to music while having an IV inserted. Patients with Alzheimer's disease have also been found to benefit from listening to music from their younger years. Music can trigger memories from their youth and help them to remember the names of their children and other family members. Therefore, music and sound are very powerful tools to balance and harmonize the body, mind and spirit allowing for relaxation, improved mental and emotional health and reduced pain.
There are many Sound Therapy instruments used today, including crystal bowls, Tibetan singing bowls, didgeridoo, harmonium and my favorite, auto-harps tuned to the central nervous system. All of these can be used in an individual or group setting, on or off the body and combined with other sound instruments such as wind chimes, rain sticks, bells, rattles, drums, gongs and shakers. A Sound Therapy session can even be just percussive and other sounds with no “music” at all. Sound Therapy is as varied as it is ageless and can be a wonderfully effective tool.