Brain Health: The Power of Music as a Therapy

Music therapy is a growing field within healthcare and can be offered in a variety of settings including hospitals, rehabilitation hospitals, retirement facilities, senior centers, psychiatric treatment centers and private practices. It can be used to assist with pain management, alleviate depression, promote movement, enable relaxation and reduce muscle tension. Music therapy has been shown to improve emotional functioning in patients with a wide array of diseases and disabilities by reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Music has been found to enhance certain areas of brain functioning by engaging emotion and enhancing memory, learning and attention. The American Music Therapy Association identifies the following benefits of music therapy on older persons and patients living with Alzheimer’s disease: Music is a source of sensory stimulation that produces positive responses due to the familiarity, predictability and feelings of security associated with music.

In a music therapy setting, the power of music can be quite healing by stimulating positive social interactions and emotional intimacy among participants and their caregivers. Music therapy provides opportunity for memory recall and positive changes in mood; a sense of control and awareness of self and the environment; anxiety and stress reduction for both the patient and caregiver; stimulation of interest and movement by stimulating parts of the brain linked to dancing and singing.

Music has an impact on enhancing mood by reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety. Listening to music with an uplifting sound increases levels of dopamine, a chemical that is linked to the brain’s reward-motivation and pleasure centers.  A combination of music and talk therapy can create an opportunity to improve mood and develop an overall healthy sense of self. The benefits of music therapy for persons with depression and anxiety include reduced muscle tension, increased self-esteem and decreased anxiety, improved interpersonal relationships, increased motivation and successful and safe emotional release.

Music has a profound effect on the body and mind, and incorporating it into our lives is the simplest way to manage everyday stress. Utilize music as a healthy distraction from current stressors. Upbeat music can increase optimism, clear the mind and create positive energy, which can allow us to have alternative perceptions of current stressors and improve our decision-making. Through the connection of song and personal experience, music can be a tool to initiate healing and to release emotional pain, such as deep feelings of grief, sadness, fear and resentment. Music can activate and maintain motivation, so turn on your favorite tunes to get moving with exercise or to make a dreaded task more enjoyable. More information on music therapy can be found by the American Music Therapy Association website: www.musictherapy.org.


Heather Tippens, a licensed professional counselor at Pinehurst Neuropsychology, can be reached at 910-420-8041 or by visiting www.pinehurstneuropsychology.com .