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Kaylee Godfrey
Mrs. DeBock
English 4 Honors
13 October 2015
The Beneficial Practice of Music Therapy
The benefits of music in medical settings have been acknowledged for over two hundred
years. Originally, music was used to distract patients from tedious and wearisome hospital visits.
As time passes, the medical utility of music therapy is being studied and the practice is proving
to be more and more beneficial to those suffering from illness, brain abnormalities and or
disabilities. The therapeutic practice is now used to treat people suffering from traumatic brain
injury and those with brain abnormalities. The frontal, temporal, parietal, occipital lobes along
with the limbic system are all responsible for processing and experiencing music. These
structures are located within the right hemisphere of the brain (Appello). In some cases, music
can allow a person to use undamaged regions of the brain and bypass the damaged regions in
order to improve language. Music therapy uses beat, rhythm and melody to help people suffering
with brain disorders repossess language, hearing, motion and emotion skills (Ford & Schlaug).
Music therapy is beneficial and therapeutic to those suffering from illness, brain injury and brain
dysfunction.
Music therapy is often used to help those suffering with the brain disorder, autism
spectrum disorder, or ASD. Autism spectrum disorder often impairs the patients social
interactions and causes difficulties in communication along with repetitive behaviors

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(Thompson, Forde and Gottfried). A thirteen year old girl named Emmanuela was on the highfunctioning end of autism spectrum disorder and often used to endure emotion breakdowns and
outbursts. She had a hard time controlling her emotions and became exasperated often.
Emmanuela also felt completely isolated due to ridicule and bullying at her school (Kolman).
Autism spectrum disorder caused Emmanuela to have an extreme amount of negative emotions
and was immensely affecting her quality of life. All of these negative feelings began to turn
around one day when the band director from Emmanuelas school summoned her to play in the
schools band. Kolman and his wife claim music stimulated the neurons in Emmanuelas brain
and affected her behavior completely. Joining the school band diminished her feelings of
isolation because she was now needed and appreciated by many of her peers. After learning
music her father claims that she scarcely has an outburst unlike how Emmanuela did pre-music
(Kolman). According to Kolman She is aware of her feelings and can stop herself from going
there. Playing music evened out her behavior and calmed her down a lot. Music was therapeutic
for Emmanuela and helped improve her quality of life although she was suffering from the brain
disorder ASD. The practice of music therapy helped relieve some of the symptoms she was
suffering from because of her autism spectrum disorder. Not only did music therapy relieve
symptoms of her ASD, it helped her develop a stronger sense of self and important qualities like
confidence. Emmanuela developed a new sense of independence and loved showing off her
talent in front of audiences (Kolman). Music therapy helped the young girl reinvent her life, and
improved her quality of life greatly. Emmanuela was not the only ASD sufferer who has
benefited from music therapy. Music therapy has helped other children with autism spectrum
disorder gain speech, social, language and motor skills (Thompson, Forde and Gottfried). This
practice has helped many people with ASD gain skills that they would not be able to acquire in

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other ways. This form of therapy has helped children gain the skills needed to be able to express
themselves to the people around them which in turn may greatly increase their quality of life.
Studies have proven music therapy is beneficial to those suffering with brain damage
from strokes. An eleven year old named Laurel suffered from a stroke at age eleven that resulted
in permanent damage. The stroke left Laurel struggling to vocalize and barely able to speak a
single word. Laurel started melodic intonation therapy which is a type of treatment that uses the
undamaged part of the brain to relearn language by avoiding the destroyed parts of the brain
(Thompson, Forde & Gottfried). Music therapy is unique and advantageous because it is one of
the only known ways to reteach language without using the right side of the brain. In a landmark
study in 2008 sixty patients who had suffered from a stroke were examined. Patients who
received auditory treatment, such as listening to music in the study appeared to have improved
verbal memory and attention. And because listening to music appears to improve memory, the
hope now is that active music making-singing, moving and synchronizing to a beat-might help
restore additional skills including speech and motor functions in stroke patients (Thompson,
Forde and Gottfried). Music therapy is allowing those suffering from brain damage due to stroke
to relearn skills they have lost and otherwise may never regain. This practice is allowing those
suffering from brain damage to reach astounding achievements and milestones that before
seemed nearly, if not completely, impossible. In music therapy, singing trains the right side of the
brain to take on responsibility from processing tasks that otherwise the right side would process.
By strengthening the left side of the brain through music therapy, a person suffering from a
completely damaged right region of the brain may be able to learn to speak again (Thompson,
Forde and Gottfried). Because of this overlooked therapeutic practice, families who were told
they will never be able to understand their loved one again may be able to. In another study in

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2014 patients who received melodic intonation therapy were compared to the patients who
received no treatment. The patients who received the melodic intonation therapy were able to
speak more than twice the amount of words per minute than the patients who received no
treatment (Thompson, Forde and Gottfried). Music therapy proves beneficial to speech skills of
those suffering from damage of the right side of the brain. Music has also proved to help stroke
survivors improve their impaired motor skills. Through melodies and rhythm, patients can
improve timing, precision and smoothness of motor skills. This rhythmic therapy proves
beneficial to those suffering from Parkinsons disease and stroke survivors (Thompson, Forde
and Gottfried). Parkinsons disease is well known for making a victim unable to speak, walk or
function like previously able. Music therapy helps improve the life of the patient by assisting
Parkinsons disease sufferers and stroke survivors regain motor capabilities they once had. This
therapeutic practice can bring some sort of normalcy back into a patients life after a devastating
diagnosis or tragic stroke.
Music therapy can also help patients with disease such as cancer. In the United Kingdom,
eight to ten cancer patients were enrolled in a music therapy program. In the five day program,
patients attend one hour and a half long session of group music therapy. Patients who took part in
the program reported a sense of healing and connectedness because of the therapy (McClean,
Bunt & Daykin). Only after one session the cancer patients discovered the positive effects of the
therapeutic practice. One and a half hours is an unbelievably short amount of time for patients to
already report such immense progress. Many patients who participated in the study stated in the
phone interviews that music therapy was a cheerful experience. Some reported the effectiveness
of the therapy even after the session had ended. Many others reported a sense of liveliness, joy,
freedom or relief gained from the session along with a sense of trust and deep communication

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among other participants in the therapy group (McClean, Bunt & Daykin). Music therapy proved
beneficial to those suffering with cancer and helped the patients with the immense amount of
negative emotions provoked by their diagnoses. Arguably most importantly, the music therapy
helped patients develop a sense of hope. There are also other studies that prove music therapy
helped increase terminally ill cancer patients spirituality (Grocke, Bloch, ET AL) The treatment
helped cancer patients improve the quality of life by releasing some of their pent up negative
emotions and creating positive emotions to replace them.
Even those suffering from severe mental illness can reap the benefits of music therapy.
People with severe mental illness (SMI) often face daily challenges such as feelings of exclusion,
being victim of stigma, social isolation and even risk of suicide. In one study, patients with
severe mental illness were offered music therapy as a treatment for their diagnosis. In the
sessions, patients would sing familiar songs along with creating original songs and rehearsing
songs for studio production. Ninety nine patients were in the study and many of the patients
reported improved quality of life and self-esteem. Patients also reported feelings of
accomplishment, confidence and motivation (Grocke, Bloch, ET AL). The report of such positive
emotions from those suffering from a great amount significant every day challenges prove the
true benefits of music therapy.
The practice of music therapy often proves profitable to patients with Alzheimers
disease. One non-profit in New York provides personalized playlists for those with Alzheimers
as a form of music therapy. Listening to music from before the time of their disease can provoke
memories that a patient may not otherwise remember. Staff at the nonprofit reported patients
becoming more alert and talkative after their session of music therapy (Fallon). Fallon also
reports that music therapy can help the Alzheimers patients, who are otherwise prone to

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isolation, anxiety and depression, connect with the world around them and function to their best
ability. Music therapy can help patients connect with their family and friends again even after the
disease has taken effect of the patient. The practice helps relieve feelings of isolation which can
help Alzheimers patient increase their quality of life even with the crippling disease.
The practice of music therapy has proved rewarding to those suffering from illness, brain
injury and brain dysfunction. The therapy is beneficial to many people and patients who
otherwise would often feel emotions such as isolation and depression. Music therapy has been
beneficial for those with autism spectrum disorder, cancer, Parkinsons disease, severe mental
illness and stroke survivors along with many others. Studies are now beginning to show the
benefits of the practice and hopefully will be more often used as a form of treatment and hospice
care.

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Works Cited
Appello, Deborah A. "Music therapy." Complementary & Alternative Medicine. Ed. Richard P.
Capriccioso and Paul Moglia. Hackensack: Salem, 2012. n. pag. Salem Online. Web. 15
Sep. 2015.
Fallon, Bill. "Music Sparks Memories for Those With Alzheimer's." Fairfield County Business
Journal 51.15 (2015): 19. Small Business Reference Center. Web. 22 Sept. 2015.
Grocke, D.Bloch, S.Castle, D.Thompson, G.Newton, R.Stewart, S.Gold, C. "Group Music
Therapy for Severe Mental Illness: A Randomized Embedded-Experimental Mixed
Methods Study." Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica 130.2 (2014): 144-153. Psychology and
Behavioral Sciences Collection. Web. 17 Sept. 2015.
Kolman, Barry. "Easing Autism with Music." Education Digest 78.8 (n.d.): 66. Science
Reference Center. Web. 15 Sept. 2015.
McClean, Stuart, Leslie Bunt, and Norma Daykin. "The Healing And Spiritual Properties Of
Music Therapy At A Cancer Care Center." Journal Of Alternative & Complementary
Medicine 18.4 (2012): 402. Advanced Placement Source. Web. 21 Sept. 2015.
Thompson, William Forde, and Gottfried Schlaug. "The Healine Power of Music." Scientific
American Mind 26.2 (2015): 32. MasterFILE Premier. Web. 22 Sept. 2015.