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Inspirem Music Therapy HK
  • Writer's pictureEsther Wong

Blog #2 Does a music therapist prescribe musical ‘magic pills’?

Does a music therapist prescribe musical ‘magic pills’?

The first thing that seems to comes in everybody’s mind when one mention music therapy is often the imagery of David the harpist who cast out demonic spirit from Saul with music. Another impression people often have is that a music therapist is someone who prescribe ‘music magic pills’--a music track with special musical properties or magical frequencies that heal a person instantly.

I wish a music therapist can be an ‘alchemist’ like this: blending this note of D3 and blend that Cmaj7 chord on piano, fused them with low cello D drone, sprinkle it with a bit of F arpeggios on chimes, add the frequency of 448Hz A note. Voilà!!!!!! Your headache goes away, your heart rate drops back to 60bpm. Oh and if you tweak that frequency to 410Hz, and add the tritone, someone’s depression would go away instantly!

Oh yes, that would be a very ideal world for a music therapist but that’s far from the reality.

However, there is a grain of truth in what I’ve just mentioned above. Different musical properties such as pitch frequency, different notes and chords, instrumentation, speed and so on can directly affect someone’s thoughts, emotion and physical reactions and behaviour. Now…we are actually touching on many different concepts and approaches within music therapy that is beyond the scope of this blog post and I shall keep this blog relatively easy for everybody to read, but I suppose there’s no harm to mention a few interesting concepts and approaches in this massive field of music therapy.

Just to name a few examples extremely briefly:

  1. Music therapy intervention has been used with patients undergoing various surgeries to reduce pain, anxiety and stress. (Procedural-Support Music Therapy in the Healthcare Setting)

  2. Music therapy helping stroke patient and patient with brain injury to ‘speak’ again by singing. (Neurological Music Therapy)

  3. Music activates certain hormones that makes you feel good. (Neurological Music Therapy)

  4. A music therapy approach called Guided Imagery and Music (GIM) that can actually bring you into your dream world to understand more of your unconscious and yourself...I always describe GIM as similar to that scene in the movie ‘Divergent’ where the character was injected a shot and that brings her into another dimension where she has to face her fear…but in GIM, it’s not just fear you encounter, it’s a bit of everything of yourself. (Analytical/ Psychodynamic music therapy)

  5. Music stimulates an autistic child to improve communication skills and social skills. (Behavioural Music Therapy, Creative Music Therapy)

  6. Musical improvisation that helps the patient with depression to explore conscious and unconscious emotions, thoughts, feelings, desires and fears. (Psychodynamic Music Therapy)

  7. Music therapy that helps to improve qualities of life for patient with terminal illness by alleviating physiological, psychological, social and spiritual distress (Music Therapy in Hospice and palliative care)

All of these above mentioned music therapy approaches are backed up with extensive researches and journals to support their validity and I hope to dwell deeper into each area in my future blog articles.

In all of the examples I mentioned above, musical interactions play a big part of music therapy. Music therapy is an active process, involving a relationship between the music therapist and the client, various musical instruments and musical and/or verbal interaction. It is not merely listening to music chosen by the music therapist, although music listening can sometimes be the right technique for the client and the occasion.

Wikipedia provides an excellent general overview of music therapy.

24 Oct 2016, written by Esther Y.W. Wong

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