Music has been used as a tool of healing since ancient times, appearing in the writings of the Greek philosophers Pythagoras, Aristotle, and Plato. Native Americans and other indigenous groups have used music to enhance traditional healing practices for centuries. References to music for healing have appeared in ancient Native American pictographs, African petroglyphs and other ancient inscriptions. Healing songs and music have also been passed down through oral traditions worldwide. Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practitioners have used music for healing. Traditional ragas (“melodic modes” used in classical music in India) have also been used to create different states of mind for healing.
Some scholars believe that “modern” music therapy began in the mid-1700s, when Louis Roger wrote his “A Treatise on the Effects of Music on the Human Body.” Others say that the modern discipline of music therapy began early in the 20th Century to treat recovering soldiers during and after both World Wars. Patients’ responses led to growth of such programs and wider scientific curiosity about the possible clinical effects of music.
Music has been used to influence physical, emotional, cognitive, and social well-being and improve quality of life for healthy people as well as those who are disabled or ill. Therapy may involve either listening to or performing music, with or without the presence of a music therapist.
Music therapists are professionally trained to design specialized applications of music according to an individual’s needs using improvisation, receptive listening, song writing, lyric discussion, imagery, performance, and learning through music.
Sessions can be designed for individuals or groups based on the specific needs of the participants. People that support music therapy claim that infants, children, adolescents, adults, the elderly and even animals can all potentially benefit from music therapy.
Music therapists work in many kinds of healthcare settings including psychiatric hospitals, prisons, rehabilitative facilities, medical hospitals, outpatient clinics, day treatment centers, agencies serving developmentally disabled persons, community mental health centers, drug and alcohol programs, senior centers, nursing homes, hospice programs, correctional facilities, halfway houses, schools, and private practice.