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Music Therapy

Music Therapy is the prescribed use of music and music related techniques to assist and motivate a person towards specific, nonmusical goals. Music therapists use their training to effect changes in the cognitive, physical, communication, social, and emotional skills.

Music Therapy utilizes music and music related activities to modify ineffective learning patterns, help to promote emotional, mental, social and physical growth and to develop non-musical goals. Music Therapy works as a creative, flexible and sometimes spontaneous means of utilizing the appeal of music to help people of all ages and abilities. Music Therapy is an established health care profession that uses music and "techniques" in order to address physical, psychological, cognitive and social behavioral patterns. Music Therapy can positively affect children and adults alike. Music Therapy can make the difference between isolation and interaction and has been proven in situations such as:
depression, anger, pain, autism, stress, grief, loss, time management, motivation, happiness, change and improving confidence.

Therapeutic Characteristics of Music:

Music can be characterized by how it heals. The way music fires the neurons in the brain to the tempo it is played, helps bring into play the characteristics that bring the biggest healing benefits to an individual. Although the power, range and effectiveness of music as a healing tool has many variables, there are certain traits that are Universal.

1. Music captivates and maintains attention, stimulating and utilizing many parts of the brain.
2. Music is adapted to, and can be reflective of, a person's ability.
3. Music structures time in a way that we can understand.
4. Music provides a meaningful, enjoyable context for repetition.
5. Music sets up a social context by setting up a safe, structured setting for verbal and nonverbal communication.
6. Music is an effective memory aid.
7. Music supports and encourages movement.
8. Music taps into memories and emotions.
9. Music and its related silence, provide nonverbal, immediate feedback.
10. Music is success oriented. People of all ability levels can participate.

Music as a Healing Power

Music is a magical medium and a very powerful tool. Music can delight all the senses and inspire every fiber of our being. Music has the power to soothe and relax, bring us comfort and embracing joy! Music subtly bypasses the intellectual stimulus in the brain and moves directly to our subconscious. There is music for every mood and for every occasion. Music Therapy is incorporated in a number of areas of medicine. Some of these include labor and delivery, oncology, pain management, physical rehabilitation, and pediatrics. Music Therapy has been shown to have influences on the immune system, blood pressure, heart and respiratory rates, and pain perception.

Many cultures recognize the importance of music and sound as a healing power. In the ancient civilizations of India, the Orient, Africa, Europe and among the Aboriginal and American Indians, the practice of using sound to heal and achieve balance from within has existed for many years. The Tibetans still use bells, chimes, bowls, and chanting as the foundation of their spiritual practice. In Bali, Indonesia, the echoing gamelang, gong, and drum are used in ceremonies to uplift and send messages. the Australian Aboriginal and Native American shamanists use vocal toning and repetitive sound vibration with instruments created from nature in sacred ceremony to adjust any imbalance of the spirit, emotions or physical being.

The Priests of ancient Egypt knew how to use vowel sounds to resonate their energy centers or chakras. There is a direct link between different parts of the body and specific sounds. Such a technique appears extremely old, yet healing through sound goes back even further at least as far back as Atlantis where the power of sound was combined with the power of crystal.

Music Therapy and Disorders

Music Therapy and Psychiatry

Music therapists work with people with mental heath disorders including schizophrenia, depression, bipolar disorders, anxiety disorders, obsessive compulsive disorders and post traumatic stress disorder. Music therapy can provide this population with an alternative means of communication and a chance to express themselves through improvisation, song writing or lyric analysis.

Music Therapy and Social Skills

Psychiatric disorders can often impair social interaction and social skills. Music therapy can provide opportunities for safe group and individual musical experiences, address how people interact with their environment and examine how they affect their environment. Music can encourage social interaction among patients. The interaction may take the form of talking about thoughts and feelings, contributing to group experience, cooperating with others or responding to others' needs. Interpersonal interaction can take place through music listening techniques lead by the music therapist (Thaut & Smeltekop, 1990).

Music Therapy and Emotions

Music therapy can provide a safe environment for a client to alleviate their feelings with a person who can "process and reflect the patient's expression in a modified form" (Jensen, 1999, p. 47). Preference and familiar music are important in this area. "If patients are to be reached, the music employed must be that which they understand, at least to some extent" (Gaston, 1968, p. 22). Gfeller (1990) argues that music can "reflect, influence and alter emotional response" (p. 59) and therefore is a valuable therapeutic device in music therapy processes including "identification, awareness, reflection or expression of feelings and relevant issues" (p.59).

Music Therapy and Communication

People with mental health difficulties may find communication with others difficult. As music therapy can help social and interpersonal interaction and emotional expression, so to can it help communication difficulties. Sears (1968) reports that clients "may express in music or through musical preferences feelings not otherwise expressible. Music may speak where words fail" (p. 43). Music therapy techniques such as song writing, lyric analysis and improvisation can be used to assist the client in development of their communication skills.

Music Therapy and Self-Esteem

Low self-esteem can be part of many mental health disorders. Music therapy can act as a psychotherapeutic agent to improve low self-esteem. Improvisation, group singing, movement techniques and dancing can provide a client with sensory and social feedback, successful musical experiences that can promote self-worth and promote body awareness and identity (Thaut & Smeltekop, 1990).

Music Therapy and Relaxation

Anxiety disorders are common and can be helped by relaxation techniques. Studies show that music can be used to effectively reduce anxiety and promote muscle relaxation (Thaut & Smeltekop, 1990). Clients "musical preference" is important to consider when using music for relaxation purposes. The idea of stimulating and sedative music increasing and decreasing anxiety respectively does not apply to everyone. Music imagery can be used to help the client reduce tension and focus on positive thoughts and feelings (Gfeller & Thaut, 1999). Imaging should not be used with people who are delusional or have psychotic disorders.

Music Therapy and Cognition

Music is a time ordered, structured stimulus. People with psychotic disorders may have poor reality orientation whereas people with mood or anxiety disorders may have insight into their disability. Music therapy can provide treatment programs geared towards the client's level of cognition and awareness. Structured reality based music experiences such as writing a song can help reality orientation, divert from neurotic concerns or obsessions and help improve impulsive behavior control (Gfeller & Thaut, 1999).

Vibrational Tuning

Vibrational medicine, which validates that everything in the Universe is in a state of vibration and the frequency at which an object or person most naturally vibrates is called resonance.

The human ear can detect a minimal range of vibration between 20 to 20,000 cycles per second (cps) or Hertz (Hz). A standard measure of frequency is Hertz, abbreviated Hz. It means "cycles per second." Compare this to the vibrations dolphins or even mice can detect, which is up to 100,000 (cps) and you realize how much more of our "Universal Symphony" we are missing out on.

The rate at which something vibrates, determines how dense it is and how we perceive it to be.

Therefore, different things vibrate at different rates or frequencies. These things can be perceived as either sound, light or color or solid matter. There is even a "hum" to the Earth. Known as the Schumann Resonance. The lowest-frequency (and highest-intensity) mode of the Schumann resonance is at a frequency of approximately 7.8 Hz. This particular frequency just so happens to be associated with the Alpha waves in our brain, which are most associated with our meditative state. "When your alpha is within normal ranges we tend to also experience good moods, see the world truthfully, and have a sense of calmness. You can increase alpha by closing your eyes or deep breathing or decrease alpha by thinking or calculating. Want to know more about the Schumann Resonance?

The human energy field is a symphony of sound, frequencies and energetic matter. From our auric field and Chakra centers, bones, and organs in the body, all possess a different resonant frequency. When an organ or part of the body is vibrating out of tune or non-harmoniously, it is called "dis ease" or disease. A body is in a healthy state of being when each cell, each organ creates a resonance that is in harmony with the whole being.

Vibrational medicine is based on the idea that all illness or disease is characterized by blockage in the channels on some level, either in nadis, meridians, arteries, veins, or nerves When there is a blockage, the organ in question stops vibrating at a healthy frequency and thus it results in some kind of illness. So, through sound and light, one can break up, dissolve and release these blockages that initiate in our light or etheric body. Ultra sound has been used medically for almost two decades as a diagnostic tool by pediatricians while the baby is in the very early stages of fetal development. More recently, ultrasound is being used to cleanse clogged arteries. Ultrasound works on the same principle of light equals sound and tone equals radiance manifesting in form.


Musically, entrainment invloves the "merging with, or synchronizing to, the pulse of the music".(7) This principle is related to the isomorphic principle which states that one's mood should be matched to the mood of the music and then gradually moved into the desired direction. The principle of entrainment is universal. Appearing in chemistry, pharmacology, biology, medicine, psychology, sociology, astronomy, architecture and more. The classic example shows individual pulsing heart muscle cells. When they are brought close together, they begin pulsing in synchronicity. Another example of the entrainment effect is women who live in the same household often find that their menstrual cycles will coincide.

The entrainment process is quite evident in music. It is possible to have rhythmic entrainment, melodic entrainment and dynamic entrainment. Entrainment music has the potential to (1) resonate with the listener's feelings, (2) transform negativity into positivity, and (3) promote a state of liveliness or serenity. Certain sounds, in specific sequence can help bring the listener from one place to another.

Entrainment is the tendency of two oscillating bodies to lock into phase, so that they vibrate in harmony.

The following are great tools for entrainment:

Music Therapy Tools

1. Affirmations One of the many things that sets musical affirmations apart is that the music and text represents an integration of words, rhythm, voice and melody. Using this type of affirmations will give you the power to think positively, to remove the barriers to prosperity, minimize stress and create pathways to love and confidence. Today's non-stop, high-stress world means our minds are constantly in the beta (unreceptive) state, where the mind's mental energy fires neurons at random. Musical affirmations will return your mind to the alpha (receptive) state, a state where the neurons fire in harmony. Where the positive message of the affirmations can be absorbed effectively by the conscious and subconscious mind due to the power enhancing affects of a musical accompaniment.

2. Mind Quieting: A disciplined mind is a free mind. Gain control over your thoughts and you maintain control over your life. Retrain your mind and you regain your freedom. Calming the mind is a behavioral technique used to interupt, minimize and eliminate "psychological noise". Obsessive, repeatitive thoughts, anxiety and fears are all apart of negative, self-destructive patterns that can benefit from the power of music and mind quieting.

3. Breathing : Breath is life! Exchange of electrons. Flow of energy. Air is the primary nutrient. Survival without it is measured in minutes. It is so important that you do it without thinking. Your breathing is the voice of your spirit. It's depth, smoothness, sound, and rate reflect your mood. If you become aware of your breath and breathe the way you do when you are calm you will become calm. Practicing regular, mindful breathing can be calming and energizing. With the addition of music and it's rhythm, the "musical breath" can even help stress-related health problems ranging from panic attacks to digestive disorders. Fall into the rhythm of the music and breathe. Focus on your breathing and the music.

4. Mantras : No one can fully explain the mystery of mantras. Their magical sounds help heal physical imbalances, relax the mind, quiet the emotions, and open the heart. They stimulate, activate, motivate, and rejuvenate. Mantras can help you dance or sleep, laugh or cry, make love or meditate, turn tedious housework or heavy exercise light-hearted fun. They can help you forget someone or find someone. They are designed to remind us that love, laughter, and inner peace are our birthright. They help us go beyond borders, realize our potential, and celebrate the power of love. Mantras offer increased flexibility and strength while they gently expand your consciousness, and help you experience love, compassion, and inner peace.

5. Chanting : Chanting begins with an invocation - a prayer, a group OM, or some small line of remembrance that connects everyone to a higher source. To learn chanting has a healthy strengthening effect on the mind; it develops concentration, patience and determination. So, almost any word group - or even sounds - can be used although the emphasis should be on goodness. Try repeating the word 'love' a thousand time over. Creating a connection to Self is the goal of chanting, and the process is meant to be inclusive and fun.

6. Toning : Toning with your own voice can improve health, greatly reduce stress, release negative emotions, strengthen immune system, increase energy, improve self-confidence, enhance memory and creativity, transform relationships, accelerate natural healing help you ascend to new dimensions of reality. Toning is the basis process of "letting go" of basic, natural sounds to attain a sense of balance, harmony and centering. Some examples of natural toning include: yawning, moaning, crying, sighing or screaming. The release of these natural tones result in the harmonizing of emotions, mind and body.

7. Drumming: Research has shown that drumming can actually strengthen the immune system, create a calming focus and is even hypnotic. A steady rhythm on the drum connects us to the heart. The healing effects have been shown to improve conditions of Alzheimers, autism, trauma and emotional disturbances.

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Feng Shui Energy Chimes

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Tibetan Tingsha Cymbals

Tibetan hand cymbals called "Ting-sha" or Ding sha, are apart of the celestial orchestra, played by goddesses of dance, music and song. The Tingsha are individually handcrafted by the ancient Tibetan method of sand-casting. After casting, each individual Tingsha is skillfully tuned by hammering around the thick outer rim to create a perfectly matching pitch for each pair. The bell metal used in the Tingsha is made of a pure bronze alloy of copper and tin with a white metal component of zinc and nickel. This is what gives the chimes their perfect pitch clarity!

There are swirling dragons patterned into the Tingsha. The Dragon is one of the most powerful and revered symbols in Feng Shui. Dragons represent strength, goodness, and the spirit of change and transformation. Qi is described as the Cosmic Breath of the dragon. A well placed dragon can inspire and uplift you throughout your own personal growth and challenges.

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Feng Shui Flute

These are beautiful handcarved bamboo flutes. They are approximately 12 inches long. Well crafted design, these instruments can be utilized when music or musical flow should be used to invoke the flow of Qi. They lift the energy of a space, encouraging the positive flow of Qi.

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Ben Wa Chime Balls

These finely crafted, authentic Ben Wa balls will be sure to stimulate all your vital nerve endings in your palm. Exercise some hand muscles you never knew you had. You can use these to help relieve stress, decrease the pain from arthritis, focus during meditation or while watching TV.

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Create Your Entrainment Music

First, find several songs, about 10-15 minutes worth, which matches your "present" mood (anxiety, stress, depression).

Second, find several other musical selections, 10-15 minutes, which is between your present internal state and the state you wish to achieve.

Third, find several songs, about 10-15 minutes worth, which match the desired mood state you wish to finally achieve (joy, relaxation, communication...). Download these songs on to an MP3 player or CD. This tool can be used over and over as needed.

Andrew has made it easy for you to order the kind of music and create an "entrainment" tool that will benefit any situation or disorder!

Search Now:

New Age *Classical * World * Rock * Folk/Blues * Pop
Hip Hop * Dance * Jazz * Vocal/Theatrical * Country * Christian/Gospel
Soundtracks * Kids/Family

Music Playlists for Life's Journeys

Music has always played an incredible part in my life! For almost every major life experience I have been able to relate a song, sonnet or musical selection to it! Here you can find playlists that relate to my most personal life journeys. I have done this in an attempt to share the power of music with others and perhaps make some suggestions that you can relate to in your life!

Spring & New Beginnings

Sounds of Summer

Greatest Love Songs

Fairy Tale Wedding

Aaron Copland

Astrology Playlist

Magical Moon Playlist

Air Playlist

Sacred Playlist

Magnificent Mozart

Reiki Playlist

Emerald Isles

Autumn Moods

Winter Introspective

Etheric Massage

Sacred Memorium

John Williams

Earth Day Playlist

Sun Salutation Playlist

Water Music Playlist

Patriotic Playlist

Desert Playlist

Angelic Enlightenment

Feeling Lucky

Halloween Hit List


1. Aldridge, David. Music Therapy Research and Practice in Medicine from Out of the Silence. 1996
2. Aldridge David, Brandt G, Music therapy and Alzheimer´┐Żs Disease. British Journal Music Therapy. Vol 5. p.28-36 1991
3. Donaldson, F.O., Playing By Heart: The vision and practice of belonging. Deerfield Beach, FL: Health Communications, Inc. 1993
4. Finnema E, Droes RM, Ribbe M, Van Tilburg W, The effects of emotion-oriented approaches in the care for persons suffering from dementia: a review of the literature. Internation journal geriatric pyschiatry. 15(2); 141-161 2000
5. Gaston, E.T. (1968). Man and music. In E.T. Gaston Music in therapy. London: Collier-Macmillan.
6. Gfeller, KE. (1990). Music as communication. In R.F.Unkefer (Ed.) Music therapy in the treatment of adults with mental disorders: Theoretical bases and clinical interventions. New York: Schirmer.
7. Gfeller, K.E. & Thaut, M.H. (1999). Music therapy in the treatment of mental disorders. In W.B. Davis, K.E. Gfeller & M.H. Thaut (Eds.) An introduction to music therapy theory and practice. Boston: Mc-Graw-Hill College.
8. Harish, John M and Eagle, Charles T. "Elements of Pain and music: The Aio Connection." Journal of the American Association for Music Therapists, 7:15-27. 1988
9. Jensen, B. (1999). Music therapy with psychiatric in-patients: A case study with a young schizophrenic man. In T. Wigram & J. De Backer (Eds.) Clinical applications of music therapy in psychiatry. London: Jessica Kingsley.
10. Mullooly, Virginia, Levin, Rona, F. & Feldman, Harriet R. "Music soothes post-op pain and anxiety." American Journal of Nursing, 1988.
11. Sears, W.W. (1968). Processes in music therapy. In E.T. Gaston Music in therapy. London: Collier-Macmillan.
12. Thaut, M.H. & Smeltekop, R.A. (1990). Psychosocial and neurophysiological aspects of music therapy interventions. In R.F.Unkefer (Ed.) Music therapy in the treatment of adults with mental disorders: Theoretical bases and clinical interventions. New York: Schirmer.
13. The Tao of Music: Sound Psychology. John M. Ortiz Ph.D, Samuel Weiser, Inc. (1997)
14. Thompson, J.F. "Music in the Operating Theatre." British Journal of Surgery, 82:12. 1586-1587. 1995: http://www.pain.com/painscripts/Pain Search.dll?2
15. The Cross Roads Institute: http://www.crossroadsinstitute.org/eeg.html

Further Reading

Cassity, M.D. & Casssity, J.E. (1998). Multimodal psychiatric music therapy for adults, adolescents and children: A clinical manual. St. Louis, MO: MMB, Music.

Tyson, F. (1981). Psychiatric music therapy: Origins and development. New York: Wiedner & Son.

Unkefer, R.F. (1990). Music therapy in the treatment of adults with mental disorders: Theoretical bases and clinical interventions. New York: Schirmer.

Wigram, T. & De Backer, J. (Eds.) (1999). Clinical applications of music therapy in psychiatry. London: Jessica Kingsley.

What is your experience with music? Sharing your own experiences often helps others. We'd love to know in the Peacefulmind Community.

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