Music therapy is the use of music interventions to achieve individualized goals of healing the body, mind, and spirit. It involves skilled music therapists, who act as mediators to interact with patients, assesses their physical, emotional, and mental needs, and offer them with the necessary healing through music. Music therapy integrates various musical elements and certain therapeutic protocols to achieve certain objectives (Bruscia, 2000). Many people obtain some kind of healing whenever they have emotional, cognitive, or social issues through music. People living with disabilities or certain illnesses have often found music to offer a soothing environment that facilitates the healing process. Music uses creative, emotional and a non-verbal language to enable users to gain self-awareness and self-expression. In many cases, people have found music to be more powerful than plain words, as it offers a unique channel of communication and expression. Essentially, people suffering from autism and Alzheimer’s disease, and those having developmental disabilities can always become beneficiaries of music therapy. This paper will give a brief history of music therapy, and its role as an alternative treatment for autism and Alzheimer’s disease. Thereafter, the paper will give a brief discussion on the politic of making music therapy a real treatment.
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History of music therapy
Music therapy traces its history back in the times of Aristotle and Plato. The writers wrote great articles describing the effect of music on health and personal behavior. After the First and Second World War, musicians felt that the only way to show gratitude to the war veterans was to visit them in the hospitals and soothe them with nice music. Surprisingly, the veterans responded positively to music, as their rate of recovery from physical and emotional trauma increased significantly. Their response triggered the doctors to confirm that music had some miraculous healing power. The doctors and nurses went ahead and ordered the hiring of musicians to help in relieving trauma in patients. Within no time, the demand for trained music therapists rose significantly, and Michigan State university began offering training in music therapy. Its first group of students graduated in 1944, and the society was impressed with the existence of the remarkable course. Thereafter, several developments occurred in the field of music therapy, and the ringleaders founded the American Music Therapy Association in 1998.
In today’s world, music therapists are imperative in hospitals, schools, rehabilitation centers, and nursing homes among other places. Some medical practitioners have backed up sociologists in approving the power that music has in reducing stress, easing anxiety, and bringing a relaxation mode to patients (Lisa, 2009). Indeed, music plays a great role in promoting the emotional, physical, and mental well being for patients suffering from the autism spectrum disorder and Alzheimer’s disease among many other diseases.
Role of music therapy as an alternative treatment for Autism and Alzheimer’s disease
Autism is a condition that is common in children and adolescents while Alzheimer’s disease is common in the elderly; however, the two conditions affect the brain. Autism is a developmental disorder that affects children’s verbal and non-verbal ability before they attain the age of three years. The commonest condition is the child’s inability to communicate and interact with other people. On the other hand, Alzheimer’s disease occurs when neuronotoxic proteins develop in the brain and lead to the damage and death of brain cells. Patients suffering from the Alzheimer disease loose memory, they develop mood swings, and they often become confused while doing their chores. However, music has a special way of calming down the psychiatric patients, and it acts as an alternative treatment to the illnesses as discussed below.
Enhancing the patients’ lives: The best thing that one can do to people with incurable conditions is enhancing their lives and making them happy. Music enhances the feeling of well-being, and it enables the patients to fight against stress and ill health. Music therapy has proven to be very effective in enabling patients with autism and Alzheimer’s disease to communicate. Although the patients are unable to express themselves by talking, music therapy enables them to express their innermost feelings. Music has a supernatural way of stimulating the sensory organs and enhancing the physical, psychological, and cognitive processes of the patients. The therapy promotes stress management, and it enhances the memory, which would otherwise be impossible under normal biomedical treatments.
Calming psychiatric patients: One of the commonest characteristic of people with brain disorders is the display of violent behaviors. People suffering from autism and Alzheimer’s disease have a tendency of experiencing mood swings, they feel sad, and their frustrations increase on a daily process. However, music therapy does the magic, as the patients’ violent behaviors decreases significantly in response to music. In fact, music calms down the patients better than the psychotropic drugs do. It is worth noting that patients suffering from autism and Alzheimer’s disease tend to display their violent behaviors when isolated in dark and quite rooms. In the presence of music, the agitation that some of the patients have reduces significantly.
Increasing social companionship: In many cases, physicians isolate patients with mental conditions to avoid the potential problems that may arise if they begin acting violently. The patients feel isolated, and their actions aim at obtaining attention from other people. However, music therapy plays a great role in reducing the social isolation experience that psychiatric patients encounter. The patients liken music sessions to storytelling sessions that console, relax, and offer them with the best time of their life. Medical caregivers will always have an easy time dealing with the patients, who experience some form of social companionship with music. Music enables the patients to recollect activities of past events, which arouses their spirits. Essentially, music therapy plays a great role in enhancing social interaction, stimulating speech, and in improving the mood of the patients.
Sociological aspects of music therapy
Their Increasing role in medical practice
Although biomedical healthcare is predominant in most countries globally, music therapy has proved to have an increasing role in the medical field in countries in the west. Other than offering physical healing to the affected patients, music therapy offers mental healing. Music therapy has proved to promote the healing process of post-surgery patients. It is worth noting that in spite of the fact that singing does not have a direct effect on healing the wound, it enhances the sense of well-being and the feeling of social connectedness. Moreover, music therapy has played a great role in rehabilitation centers by helping patients to quit their addiction. Although not scientifically proven, drug addicts obtain some form of relieve while drumming and playing loud music. Moreover, most nations in the west have utilized music therapy in special education schools to help in achieving social, emotional, behavioral, and psychological needs of the people living with disabilities. It is evident that music therapy has an increasing role in the medical field, and the nations that still disregard it will soon embrace music therapy because of its endless rewards.
The politic of making music therapy a real treatment
Music therapy has encountered various views in the medical field, as it is just a complementary or alternative treatment. While some countries strongly believe that music therapy is an essential treatment for psychiatric illnesses, other countries have marginalized music therapy as a form of treatment. Essentially, the politic of making music therapy a real treatment mainly involves the medical practitioners and sociologists.
It is evident that many people believe in superior treatment methods that fit into the biomedical field. The strongest believe in biomedical treatments lies in the fact that every treatment is predictable and controllable. Medical practitioners mainly focus on the disease, and they would rather treat psychiatric patients using medicine rather than using the music therapy approach, which would be ineffective at other times. Believers of biomedical treatments have confidence in the evidence-based approach to deal with diseases. If need be, the practitioners set up control groups to determine the suitability of a certain drug. Therefore, from a rational point of view, medical practitioners disqualify music therapy because it is not evidence based, as the music therapists might find it difficult to have control groups to carry out randomized trials (Plum, 2011, 2012).
On the other hand, some sociologists strongly back up complementary and alternative treatments like music therapy, as the therapies have little or no side effects. According to them, music therapy is a non-biomedical treatment that uses a holistic approach to address medical conditions and promote health. Moreover, music therapy has the power to provide social, emotional, behavioral, psychological, and physical healing concurrently unlike the biomedical treatments. The power of music therapy lies in its ability to make the best out of ordinary activities like dancing, singing, and listening to music. The sociologists disregard biomedical treatments because of their inability to fulfill the social, moral, spiritual, and scientific needs of the society and the patients.
From the discussions, it is evident that medical practitioners and sociologists have reasons to support their schools of thought; therefore, the politic of making music therapy a real treatment is not about to end. However, it is factual that music therapy has the capability to act as an alternative treatment to patients suffering from autism and Alzheimer’s disease among other diseases. However, medical practitioners and music therapists should work together and base their treatment on certain objectives that may vary from one patient to another. While some patients need some sensory stimulation, others need some speech simulation or mood improvement. It is noteworthy that autism is a spectrum disorder that affects patients differently, thus, the level of illness varies from one patient to another. While other patients may have difficulties in their common senses of smell, taste, hearing, touch, and sight, others may have learning difficulties. Therefore, they need different treatments. The same thing applies to patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, as they may have different impairments that require different therapies. Overall, in spite of the existing politic in making music therapy a real treatment, it is evident that it is indeed playing a major role in advancing the healing process of patients living with mental disabilities.
Bruscia, K. (2000). The nature of meaning in music therapy. Nordic Journal of Music Therapy, 9(2), 37-43.
Lisa, B. (2009). Alzheimer’s disease: The role of music therapy in symptom palliation. Web.
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Plum, C. B. (2011). Sociology of medicine: How music therapy is affected by the dominant position of the biomedical model pt 1. Web.
Plum, C. B. (2012). Opposition to music therapy: How music therapy is affected by the dominant position of the biomedical model pt 2. Web.