The most common methods used to treat somebody with any kind of disorder are medicine, therapy, or a combination of the two. Medicine has been studied for centuries, the earliest surviving medical text being dated back to 1800 BCE. Therapy has not been around for nearly that long. Around 1880 CE, Sigmund Freud started developing his “talking cure” as it was called. Since then, multiple methods of therapy have been invented and studied: talk therapy, group therapy, family therapy, counselling, and the topic of this paper, music therapy.
The first known mention of music therapy predates Sigmund Freud’s talking cure by about 100 years, appearing in 1789 in an article in Columbia Magazine titled Music Physically Considered. In 1804, the first medical dissertation having to do with music therapy was published by Edwin Atlee. Interest in music therapy grew through the 1900’s. In 1926, Isa Maud Ilsen founded the National Association for Music in Hospitals and in 1941, the National Foundation of Music Therapy was founded by Harriet Ayer. As of 2018, it has been thoroughly studied, but not quite perfected as music therapy, along with any other type of therapy affects most people differently making it difficult to refine. I will discuss two different disorders / illnesses that can be helped with the aid of music therapy.
The case is one dealing with patients with dementia. Patients with dementia may experience memory problems, particularly remembering recent events, reduced concentration, and increasing confusion. Listening to certain songs is proven to trigger certain memories in people suffering from this condition. As with most music therapy, each song affects each patient differently. Twin Pines Nursing and Rehabilitation Center has a program called Music and Memory. Each patient there has a playlist of music specially designed for them and to help them with whatever it is they need help with, be it short term memories, long term memories, or just generally feeling less confused. The playlists are designed by the therapists with input from friends and family members of the patients. One of the patients there is 91-year-old Margaret Steele. Her playlist of music can transform her mood / state of mind from confused and agitated to calm and content. She responds well to Frank Sinatra, so they play his songs for her often. Another patient was bed-ridden for she was completely immobile except for when she heard her Tejano music. She was able to move her fingers to the beat of the music. Many dementia patients take antipsychotic medicine to decrease dementia symptoms and to keep them from wandering away or harming themselves. Because of the patients’ positive response to the music therapy, the amount of this medication The Rehabilitation Center has had to administer has decreased. The Courtyard Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center adopted the program in 2016 and now tries music therapy first before administering any medication.
The second case involves young kids with cancer. Unfortunately, music therapy is not a cure to cancer. As groundbreaking as that would be, it just isn’t the case. Music therapy can however help a child emotionally with everything battling cancer throws at a person. “Just treatment is not enough,” director of the cancer center David G. Poplack said. “We want to have a psychosocial impact so that the children are not only cured but healed as well.” Cancer patients commonly experience loneliness, isolation, and depression. Using songs, music therapists can help patients cope with these feelings. Since 2007, the children’s cancer center of Baylor College of Medicine has expanded its arts-in-medicine therapies to include songwriting and recording. Pianist and composer Anita Kruse raised $10,000 in order to equip the hospital with a music studio to make songwriting and recording possible for the kids. She runs a program at the hospital called Purple Songs Can Fly. Children in the program are encouraged to tell Ms. Kruse about something they enjoy, something that makes them happy, or something they have always wanted to tell somebody. She works what the child says into song lyrics and works up a quick backing track. She hands the lyrics to the child and lets them sing the lyrics along with the backing track. The child records the song and gets to take it home with them on CD. The song the child records not only helps that child with what they are going through, but it can help other children and even adults going through the same thing.
Both dementia and cancer can not be cured with music therapy alone, but studies in both show that music therapy does assist in recovery. It will hopefully continue to be developed and will affect the lives of millions of people around the world.
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