Music for Healing
Besides the theoretical perspectives that support Expressive Art Therapy, neurological studies also illustrate the effectiveness of this healing modality. Our brains process sound, vision, and everything else we experience and release chemicals and hormones that impact our emotional state and wellbeing.Paulson, et al (2013) explain that
…there are parts of the brain that process complex sound, parts of the brain that process syntactic components of language and music, parts of the brain that process meaning, parts of the brain that process emotion… (p.69)
When considering that different parts of the brain work together to create our perception of experience, the expressive arts appear to be a natural method that therapists could employ to simultaneously improve client experience and promote heightened states of awareness.
Utilizing writing, speech, sound, sight, smell, and movement, along with other expressive outlets provides a great space for exploration into activities that challenge the client and the therapist to think in new ways. Sharma and Jagdev (2012) explain that,
Music therapy is thought to activate biochemical and electrical memory material across corpus callosum, thus enhancing the ability of the two hemispheres to work in unity, rather than in opposition…(p.55)
What are considered to be the left and right hemispheres of the brain are able to create stronger connections when music is present. This helps to enhance the learning process and receptivity. Increased receptivity could make us more inclined to understanding others and ourselves, giving us access to “…our human potential” (Sharma and Jagdev, 2012, p.55) Sharma and Jagdev (2012) also comment that music has the ability to,
…stimulate the production of endorphins, the body’s natural opiates, as well as reduce levels of cortisol and noradrenaline, hormones related to stress. (p.55)
Utilizing music to reduce the hormones related to stress; cortisol and corandrenaline. could help to reduce the occurrence heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and other conditions related to inflammation, stress, or excess fat stores in the body.
Utilizing active and passive music therapy lets the client focus on two different aspects of the audio experience. The passive mode, “…gives importance to listening…may be beneficial to almost all forms of ailments.” (Sharma and Jagdev, 2012, p.53) Passive music therapy has been linked to, “…enhancing the concentration and memory…boosting self-confidence, to reduce the stress and strain…“ (Sharma and Jagdev, 2012, p.53) Both, the active and passive mode of music exploration are beneficial to emotional development and focus on complimentary aspects of wellbeing.
The active mode of experiencing music focuses on the client’s active participation in the process of creating the finished work. This mode of active experience and expression has been linked to,
…immense help in neurological problems, like neurological aphasia (receptive aphasia and expressive aphasia) in the segment of alternative medicines to help children to reduce speech problems, to enhance speech fluency, to reduce hyper activity in hyperactive children…”(Sharma and Jagdev, 2012, p.5)
Expressive art therapies like music and expressive writing can help increase awareness, self-esteem, and other positive emotions. Sharma and Jagdev (2012) also explain that, “Music can reduce aggressive behavior and improve self-esteem in children with highly aggressive behavior.”(p.56) This could be highly useful in alcohol/drug abuse, detention & school settings where aggressive behavior may be more common.
Paulson, S., Bharucha, J., Iyer, V., Limb, C., & Tomaino, C. (2013). Music and the mind:
the magical power of sound. Annals Of The New York Academy Of Sciences, 1303(1), 63-79. doi:10.1111/nyas.12183
Sharma, M., & Jagdev, T. (2012). Use of Music Therapy for Enhancing Self-esteem among
Academically Stressed Adolescents. Pakistan Journal Of Psychological Research, 27(1), 53-64.
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