Although the term “music therapy” seems to imply fun and silliness, the field of music therapy is an evidence-based practice based fully in carefully crafted and checked research.
The foundation of music therapy is neuroscience theory of how our brains process music, and music therapy techniques are based on peer-reviewed experiments that are statistically significant and replicable.
It just seems impossible – we claim that music therapy can address SO many different, seemingly unrelated things. Fine and gross motor skills, behavioral issues, social skills, cognition…
It’s all because of the way music is processed in your brain. Music combines many elements: melody, harmony, emotional content, movement. But the most important element to consider for our purposes is this: Rhythm.
Rhythm takes something very relative and flexible – the concept of time – and makes it concrete and approachable. Problems in the brain often deal with timing issues like sequencing, waiting, and organizing. A predictable rhythm optimizes brain function and helps everything to work together. When your brain can organize, it can function at the highest potential.
When you think about it, there must be a reason people ask “What is your favorite song?” rather than “Do you like music?” as a standard get-to-know-you question. Of course you like music – have you ever met anyone who dislikes ALL music? Most likely not! On a neurochemical level, music causes the same reactions as activities necessary for survival (eating, sleeping, and love!) So maybe music really is necessary for survival, and in the process of humans becoming extremely specialized in the last few centuries, somewhere we’ve forgotten that.
Music-making involves many skills necessary for optimal functioning: turn-taking, patience, communicating, expressing needs, and functional movement. Music therapists spend years studying these concepts and designing ways to apply them to individualized objectives, taking into account a client’s personal needs, tastes, and personality. Medical professionals have been publishing the effectiveness and efficacy of these interventions since the 1700s, and music therapists combine their knowledge of the most current research with their own trained instincts and experience to help every client achieve their goals better, faster, and all while having much more fun.
For more information on research, check out our blog – we regularly roundup the latest research that music therapists and other neuroscience specialists are publishing!