Music Therapy – From Ancient Traditions to Modern Applications

By  | 

Music therapy has long been utilized as an aid to managing pain, emotional distress and behavioral issues in patients. Furthermore, its use may reduce pharmaceutical needs during treatment.

Early in the 1900s, many organizations were formed under the belief that music can heal. Unfortunately, most of them failed due to changing times.

Historical Roots

Since antiquity, music has long been used to ease grief and aid healing. Even Biblical accounts show this ancient correlation between sound and wellness.

Modern music therapy first emerged after WWII when local musicians began performing for veterans at hospitals. Patients responded positively both physically and emotionally, prompting more professionals to be trained for training and practice by medical institutions.

As music therapists become established within healthcare fields, they look for ways to both enhance patient outcomes and advance their professional careers. This involves adopting technology, forging collaborative arrangements across disciplines and developing community outreach strategies. There are numerous advantages associated with including musical therapies into holistic healthcare practices: increased cognitive abilities and physical coordination; emotional expression; social interactions and an inclusive atmosphere promoting inclusivity for marginalized groups.

Scientific Basis

As for its physical benefits, researchers have discovered that music stimulates various brain areas – the cerebellum for processing rhythm and the frontal lobes for decoding emotions – while simultaneously decreasing pain perception and improving quality of life.

Music therapy can be delivered in various ways. A receptive approach involves playing a piece of music and encouraging its recipient to discuss its emotional or psychological effects; during re-creational sessions clients recreated it using instruments or voice, while compositional sessions involved both parties working collaboratively on creating an original tune (whether instrumentally or vocally).

As with any mental health practice, music therapy requires empathy from its practitioner; additionally, its unique complexity requires extensive knowledge of both a client’s culture and how music can convey emotion.

Diverse Applications

Music therapy offers more than psychodynamic relief; it also aims to explore social, cultural, and spiritual dimensions of an individual’s inner world. Music therapy gives those who cannot verbalize experiences a means to access them preverbally while verbal individuals gain an opportunity to communicate emotionally in a manner not possible through verbal means alone (Geretsegger & colleagues 2014).

Music therapists employ an assortment of instruments, including guitars, keyboards, large drums, small drums, rhythm sticks, flutes, recorders and xylophones. In addition, vocalization may help their clients express themselves or engage them in breathing exercises.

Other music therapy activities could involve listening to songs and discussing their emotional or memory impact; creating musical stories; or working together on creating music together. Such interactive experiences give music therapists an excellent opportunity for ongoing evaluation as well as tailoring therapeutic interventions specifically to individual needs.


Music therapy has an ancient past yet remains an effective modern practice. Music can help promote relaxation, pain management, emotional expression and more; currently used in educational settings and medical treatments for various conditions.

Gouk provides an in-depth history of music in medicine. She explores many other related topics as well, including anthropological studies of Ngoma healing rituals, historical accounts of music and melancholia as well as reflections on musical identity. Furthermore, she addresses the complicated situation faced by contemporary professional music therapists who must work within various institutional frames and ideologies while simultaneously offering care through many avenues. Furthermore, Gouk points out how any notion of musical cure can be problematic depending on which experiential framework legitimizes it as therapeutic results may vary between contexts.