The power of music therapy: healing through sound and silence in different life stages and workplace settings
It’s no surprise that here at IRIS we are massive advocates of the healing properties of sound, and Music Therapy Day is something we couldn’t resist talking about. Sound healing has been used in cultures for thousands of years and has fascinated scientists with claims of how it can improve illnesses. However, it is only in more recent years that professionals have harnessed the power of music and used it as a method of clinical therapy, called music therapy.
Whilst the practice of sound healing focuses on the effect of vibrational frequencies on the body, which you can read more about in our article on the power of sound healing, music therapy is more about using sound as a way of addressing emotional difficulties, trauma, or illness as well as a method of expression and communication. According to the British Association for Music Therapy, music therapy is described as a ‘psychological clinical intervention, delivered by HCPC registered music therapists to help people whose lives have been affected by injury, illness, or disability through supporting their psychological, emotional, cognitive, physical, communicative, and social needs’.
During music therapy, a professional will draw on a range of resources to facilitate a session which may involve playing instruments, using their voice, or even writing songs for someone receiving therapy, with the aim of facilitating interactions through sound. Sessions are often improvised, taking the shape of the feelings and emotions of that moment. The person receiving the therapy can be passive and absorb the music and respond in their own way, or actively join in with the activity and be part of the music. Music therapy can have a significant impact with people of any age or ability, from birth to end of life care.
Babies and the young
Research shows that music therapy can be significant in helping parents create a special bond with their babies, in particular in cases where babies have been born prematurely. Having a music therapist available for parents visiting their newborns on a neonatal ward has been shown to help parents and babies create a strong bond despite the physical barriers of incubators and medical equipment. Furthermore, research showed that music and lullabies delivered by a trained therapist can have a positive impact on the vital signs of babies in intensive care. That’s pretty impressive.
Music therapy has also been shown to help non-verbal children and those with profound disabilities communicate and feel a sense of shared experience by expressing their emotions through sound. Music isn’t a language we learn, it’s an innate feeling we can express, and this type of therapy provides a way for those with communication barriers to navigate and make sense of emotions that they might feel, but aren't able to explain verbally.
Similarly, this kind of therapy also helps adults with disabilities find a way of expression and interaction. Music is intrinsically connected to memory, and in adults with Alzheimer's, music has the ability to bring back memories which may have been long forgotten. One study found that music therapy can reduce agitation and irritability as well as improve memory and anxiety in those with Alzheimer’s disease.
More and more adults are seeking out music therapy as a way of boosting their mood and improving their mental wellbeing by using it as a tool to work through issues such as anxiety, stress, and depression. As this is something that is particularly effective in group situations, it could even be used in a workplace to improve employee wellbeing.
In the workplace
In addition to the benefits of music therapy for individuals with disabilities and illnesses, there is growing evidence that incorporating music into the workplace can improve wellbeing and productivity for employees. This is particularly relevant for call centre agents who often have to deal with high levels of stress and emotional strain on a daily basis.
One way in which music can be used to improve workplace wellbeing is by creating a calming environment. Research has shown that playing background music with a slow tempo and low volume can reduce stress levels and increase job satisfaction among call centre agents. This is because the music helps to mask distracting noise from the surrounding environment and creates a more pleasant atmosphere for employees to work in.
What music can't help with is background noise on calls, whether on the agent side or the customer side. But IRIS Clarity can. The impact of noise in a call centre should not be underestimated as it is one of the major factors that affects the wellbeing of agents. You can read more about in the article ‘the impact of noise on our brain, body and business’.
In conclusion, music therapy is a powerful tool that can be used to improve the lives of people of all ages and abilities. Whether it's helping parents bond with their premature babies, allowing non-verbal children to communicate, or reducing stress levels in the workplace, the healing properties of sound are undeniable. As we celebrate Music Therapy Day, let's continue to explore the many benefits of sound and incorporate it into our lives and workplaces to improve our mental and emotional wellbeing.
You can find out more about music therapy at https://www.bamt.org/