Benefits music therapy and mindfulness has on mental health – 7 psychological conditions that can be helped

Benefits Music Therapy

The power of music! Music is a powerful tool in many ways. It can be used to help people with different kinds of issues, including conditions relating to physical pain, mental disorders, or enhancing cognitive skills as well as motor skills. Music therapy is one way to achieve this.

This article on music therapy will explain what it is, how it works, and how it relates to mindfulness by discussing the benefits of music therapy and mindfulness has on our health.

What is music therapy?

Music therapy is an evidence-based practice designed to promote health and well-being through therapeutic music for the treatment of mental illness or issues. Music therapists provide services in medical hospitals, clinics, schools, nursing homes, and other settings (eg. a correctional facility or private practice).

The goal of therapy is to improve patients’ quality of life by decreasing pain, anxiety or improving communication skills.

Music is an outlet for expression which most people can relate to. The expression of feelings through music can speak volumes.

Music opens avenues for communication in a non-verbal way.

Music therapy has been around since the 1800s when American musicians started using music to treat patients who had problems such as autism, depression, anxiety, and Alzheimer’s disease. The technique was originally developed to help children with developmental issues, but over time its scope widened to include adults suffering from serious illnesses.

Music therapy was further developed in the 1950s in England to address hearing and speech disorders. In recent years, it has become increasingly common across America and the rest of the world.

Several studies suggest that listening to music can reduce stress, enhance relaxation, and improve sleep.

Music therapy has a wide range of benefits regarding behavioral therapy, including helping children who are anxious or depressed, aiding people suffering from chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson’s Disease, as well as helping adults cope with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

How does music therapy work?

Two different types of music therapy exist.

Receptive music therapy is used when the patient receives music without any physical interaction but responds to it accordingly. Active music therapy involves the patient interacting with the music by making or creating music. Both methods can be effective in treating different disorders.

The American Association of Music Therapy states that music therapist helps people who suffer from various mental illnesses by assessing their emotional well-being, communicating with them using music therapy techniques, designing music interventions for clients, following up on progress, and providing support after treatment has ended.


Playing musical instruments, writing music, singing along, or meditating with music are all forms in which music therapy sessions exist. The client or patient would not need a background in music and is therefore accessible as a form of therapy to all.

The form of music chosen is based on the client’s individualized goals and musical preferences.

Everybody can relate to music – therefore it is very effective when used as a tool for self-expression. By accessing a way to self-express we can start to unravel the layers of our subconscious psyche and therefore work through our mental struggles that might be deeply entrenched within our minds

Most effective songs for music therapy: 

Stats and studies have shown that these popular songs have benefitted people in the most therapeutic way 

The top five songs
1. We Will Rock You, Queen
2.Three Little Birds, Bob Marley
3. Amazing Grace, various versions including Elvis Presley
4. Another Brick in the Wall, Pink Floyd
5. You Are My Sunshine, various versions including Johnny Cash

The top five artists used in music therapy were also included in the survey with Bob Marley taking the top slot, followed by Queen, Adele, Pink Floyd and Eminem.

‘If you look at the songs and artists that are chosen, they tend to have very strong melodies and rhythms and are very much woven into the fabric of people’s lives… This type of therapy can be remarkably effective and adapted to many different kinds of problems that people are facing as individuals or groups such as families.’

Effectiveness of music therapy

Music therapy combines musical elements with other therapeutic methods such as hypnosis, psychodrama, play therapy, dance movement therapy, arts integration, bodywork, poetry writing, journaling, etc., to provide an effective treatment approach for various mental health disorders or conditions including autism spectrum disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and Tourette syndrome to mention a few.

The impact of music therapy also improves the overall quality of living by enhancing self-image, relationships, personal productivity, and emotional stability.

Music therapists are trained to apply different techniques which involve a musical therapy activity to facilitate the healing journey of each individual.

They help children express themselves creatively while improving their memory, language processing abilities, motor coordination, speech articulation, auditory discrimination, and fine-tuning of muscle control.

In addition, music therapy provides support for families dealing with grief, loss, and separation.

Effective benefits:

1. Patients also benefit greatly from improved physical health, decreased isolation, and enhance spiritual growth as there is a great amount of self-development that can be a result of part-taking in music therapy.

2. People who suffer from neurological disorders or developmental delays find it very hard to speak out loud. This makes communicating with family members and friends extremely difficult. However, music therapy allows them to communicate through song lyrics and rhythms.

Children and adults alike love singing along with songs and dancing to rhythmical beats. Songs are chosen according to the needs of the particular patient. Some choose upbeat songs that make them happy whereas others prefer sad songs to alleviate sadness.

Other benefits music therapy includes:

1. Physical benefits

2. Cognitive Benefits

3. Emotional Benefits

4. Spiritual / Religious Benefits

Music therapy has become a widely adopted treatment modality while gaining status as an established health profession with applications in various settings such as schools, hospitals, prisons, retirement homes, special care units, mental health facilities, and rehabilitation centers. 

Although research into the benefits of music therapy remains at early stages the statistics for music therapy is promising, it appears that music may provide a useful intervention component for some patients. 

Music therapy for healing – 6 conditions neurological music therapy can improve

Disclaimer: In no way is this supposed to treat, diagnose or cure any psychological, physical, or medical condition and should not replace other forms of medical intervention – it is merely used as an alternative form of therapy.

1. Music therapy on autism spectrum disorders

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental condition that affects the social, communicative, and cognitive development of an individual. It is characterized by difficulties in social interaction, communication, and repetitive behaviors. The symptoms usually appear during childhood and persist throughout adulthood.

There are many theories about how ASD develops. One theory says that the brain of an autistic person is wired differently than that of a normal child. Another theory states that problems arise when the environment does not stimulate the right parts of the brain.

Research shows that music therapy can help treat children with ASD. Studies have shown that listening to music can increase the level of attention and focus of children with ASD. A study conducted in 2010 showed that music therapy helped reduce anxiety and stress levels in children with ASD.

Another study found that music therapy was effective in helping children with ASD develop better social skills

A study published in 2008 found that music therapy helped decrease aggression and hyperactivity among children with ASD. The researchers concluded that music therapy could help teach these children appropriate behavior patterns.

2. Music therapy on dementia patients.

Music has been used as a therapeutic tool in the treatment of various diseases, including dementia. This study investigated whether music therapy could improve cognitive function and quality of life (QOL) for people with mild to moderate Dementia.

Researchers divided participants into four groups. Each group received different treatments over eight weeks. Group one listened to classical music, group two listened to jazz music, group three listened to pop music, and group four did not listen to any music.

The results showed that all groups improved their memory performance after receiving music therapy. However, only the group that listened to jazz music had significantly higher scores on QOL measures.

3. Music therapy for Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive, degenerative brain disorder that affects memory and thinking skills. It causes difficulty with daily activities such as eating, dressing, using the bathroom, and even remembering how to speak or walk. As the disease progresses, it may cause severe disability and death.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia. It is estimated that more than 5 million Americans suffer from this disease. Many experts believe that music therapy can play a role in improving the lives of individuals living with Alzheimer’s disease.

4. Music therapy on depression in patients with chronic pain

Evidence suggests that musical therapy for depression can be very effective. To evaluate the effect of music therapy (MT) on depressive symptoms and quality of life (QOL) in patients with chronic pain, compared to standard care alone. A total of 60 participants were recruited through advertisements at local hospitals. Participants were randomly assigned to an intervention group (n 30) or a control group (n 30). All participants completed pre-and post-treatment questionnaires assessing depressive symptoms and QOL.

Participating in MT led to a statistically significant reduction in depressive symptoms and improvement in QOL. The results suggest that MT is effective in reducing depressive symptoms and improving QOL in patients with chronic pain.

5. music therapy ADHD

How Music Therapy helps for Adhd

Adults and children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are often diagnosed with learning disabilities, which affect their ability to focus and pay attention. They also tend to be restless and impulsive. These behaviors make it difficult for them to complete tasks and maintain relationships.

In one study, researchers found that adults with ADHD who received music therapy experienced improvements in concentration, impulsivity, and social interactions. Children with ADHD who received music lessons had better scores on tests measuring cognitive performance and motor coordination.

6. Sleep music therapy (for insomnia)

How music therapy helps for insomnia and sleep disorders

Sleep is a natural process that we all need. It’s essential to maintain our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. For some people, however, it can be challenging to fall asleep or stay asleep. Some people find it hard to fall asleep because they worry about things that happen during the day; others wake up too early and struggle to get back to sleep. Still, others don’t feel rested when they do finally drift off.

Sleep problems can cause stress, anxiety, depression, fatigue, headaches, irritability, and more. People who experience these difficulties may benefit from treatment using music therapy.

Music therapy helps us sleep by calming and quietening our minds – similar to practicing meditation.

7. Music therapy for anxiety

It has been used in the treatment of anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Since we can find a lot of emotional release through music it can also provide our minds with ease and calm and for a moment let go of the worries or anxious feelings we might be experiencing.   Additional conditions music therapy helps:  

  1. Schizophrenia
  2. Bipolar Disorder
  3. Post Traumatic Stress disorder 
  4. Substance Abuse
  5. Physical Ailments (eg. Muscle Tension or high blood pressure)

Music therapy as a mindfulness practice

We are aware of how mindfulness along with meditation holds many therapeutic effects – similar to musical therapy. The healing process that this therapeutic practice provides comes from a very intentional and mindful standpoint. 

Mindfulness has great positive effects on our cognitive behavior and our daily life. The therapeutic relationship between mindfulness and music is therefore evident. 

Listening to music can quite literally change our brain chemistry by creating a self-expressive and calm environment within our minds – in a similar way to meditation. So when done together it has so many added benefits!

Our pain perception (physical or mental) changes and shifts.

Certain neurotransmitters get released which decreases overall stress felt.

We create a feeling of inner safety.

We feel understood.

We can understand and make sense of our thoughts better as it brings about a reflective and introspective state of being.

Music therapy has been used for centuries to help patients cope with pain, anxiety, addiction, depression, and other mental health challenges, and now researchers are using it to teach people how to be mindful.

According to a study published in The Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience in 2013, when you listen to music, you enter into a state where your brain becomes less reactive to external stimuli, which helps you focus and relax.

Mindfulness is another way of describing this same process.  

Music accesses the same part of our brain that mindfulness does by bringing us into the present moment and tapping into “the zone” or being “in flow”.  

The zone or being “in flow” means that you are fully immersed in what you’re doing, and you lose track of time and space. To be in flow, you need to focus completely on the task at hand, and completely ignore everything else around you. This is why “flow” is a popular concept used in several disciplines such as sport, music, art, and business.  

Therefore, music therapy can be used as a complementary treatment to enhance the effects of mindfulness.

 quotes on music therapy:

Janet Horvath on Twitter | Music therapy quotes, Inspirational music quotes,  Therapy quotes
Oliver Sacks Quote: “I regard music therapy as a tool of great power in  many neurological disorders – Parkinson's and Alzheimer's – because o...”

Music Therapy degrees and educational program:

Music therapists require specialized training. Becoming a part of the American music therapy association as a music therapist or having a music therapy job is possible and the requirements for music therapy as a career are through obtaining a degree in music therapy or even exploring music therapy degrees online…

There are a few options where you can get your qualification as an undergraduate degree or even enroll for your masters in music therapy programs.

5 Colleges and Schools for music therapy

  1.  University of Alabama
  2.  Colorado State University
  3. Illinois State University
  4. New York University
  5. SUNY – Fredonia

3 online degree music therapy near me

  1. Berklee Online
  2. CSU Online
  3. Loyola University New Orleans

In conclusion, there are so many different ways for us to process our emotions, feelings, and thoughts or even move towards healing our mental health. Music therapy health and mindfulness go hand in hand – it might just be the way forward for you to break down the walls and feel the freedom of self-expression as the music speaks through you.

About author: bianca

Yoga and meditation instructor, holistic personal trainer, nutritional advisor, website and content designer, blog writer, professional dancer, performing artist, voice-over actor, and choreographer.