Music has long been used to influence our moods, help us relax, lift our spirits or energize us. Chances are, your parents used music to sooth you as a baby. As a teen, music probably became even more important to you, and the music you chose to listen to showed who you were as an individual.
You may listen to one type of music to help you relax or focus, another type to get you moving. As we grew up, we learned what we liked and how music could help us achieve our goals. Science is beginning to catch up to what we have instinctively known and is starting to incorporate music into education and treatment.
What is Music Therapy?
In simple terms, music therapy is the use of music to improve overall health. In recent years, music therapy has become more popular and according to Temple University, it is used in hospitals, psychiatric facilities, schools, prisons, community centers, training institutes, private practices, and universities.
Music therapy works on the premise that everyone has the ability to appreciate and benefit from music. In sessions, individuals may:
- Create music
- Play along with pre-recorded music
- Compose songs or lyrics
- Listen to music
Music therapists often encourage clients to talk about their reactions to the music or share their thoughts while listening to music. Some use other arts, such as drawing, painting, drama, poetry or dance to further explore their feelings.
Music therapy for children frequently includes games, stories or play activities involving music.
Recent Research Findings
Some recent research has shown benefits of music therapy in individuals with ADHD.
- A study in 1996 incorporated music into neurofeedback programs. The results indicated children receiving music during the sessions showed more improvement than those receiving neurofeedback without music. [Pratt et al, 1996]
- A survey completed in 2003 showed music therapy to be favorable in treating elementary age children with ADHD in conjunction with other treatment methods. [Jackson, 2003]
- A few studies completed in New Zealand showed a decrease in impulsive behaviors and restlessness in the classroom for students with ADHD who received music therapy. [Rickson, 2006 and Montello, 1996]
Music in Education
Although not specifically listed as "music therapy" music has been used in the classroom to help enhance learning, attention, focus and retention by teachers for many years. Some examples of how music helps:
- Setting music to lists, words, or anything that needs to be memorized
- Background music while completing seatwork, tests or writing essays
- Background music when greeting students to create a soothing, welcoming atmosphere
- Providing a more integrated learning experience. Children with ADHD and learning disabilities learn better when several senses are activated during the process.
- Helps develop a sense of community
Teachers, especially in the elementary grades, having been using music to accelerate learning. Unfortunately, as children move into the upper grades, music is used less and less.