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How Music Therapy Works

Music transports us back in time, grounds us in the present, and helps us appreciate life’s special little moments. Think about your childhood, your wedding, or a grandchild’s graduation. Do you associate certain songs with those cherished events? It’s hard to deny the power of music. In fact, music can be so powerful that experts channel it into something called music therapy, or the use of music in a clinical setting to improve a host of health conditions. And since seniors are more prone to chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and memory issues, music therapy can play a big role in recovery. Find out how music therapy works, and how you might incorporate it into your wellness practice or the care of a loved one.

How Music Therapy Works

What Is Music Therapy?

First, let’s explore what, exactly, music therapy entails. According to the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA), music therapy uses “clinical and evidence-based music interventions to help individuals achieve specific goals with the guidance of a professional music therapist.” AMTA reports that music therapy has been shown to help patients improve their memory and communication skills, but it can also promote physical rehabilitation and well-being.

Music therapy has a wide variety of applications. For example, you might listen to popular songs from your childhood to boost your mood, or you might work with a music therapist to make some music of your own.

Music therapy can be especially helpful for seniors suffering from chronic conditions.

Music Therapy for Stress Relief

Your golden years can be some of the best years of your life, but they do come with unique stressors. Health issues, relocation, and financial worries can all plague seniors as they transition into retirement. Fortunately, music therapy can help relieve stress, anxiety, and depression in a variety of ways. For example, a music therapist might soothe an anxious patient with calming music. A music therapist might also help a frustrated patient express their feelings through percussion, like banging a drum.

How Music Therapy Keeps You Active

Music therapy has plenty of mental health benefits, but it can also boost your physical health. When you’re listening to a favorite song, it can be tempting to get up and dance. That, in turn, can help promote coordination, boost muscle tone, and overall make it much easier to stay active as you get older. Music therapy may even help with pain management.

Music Therapy and Dementia

Music therapy can also have powerful effects on patients suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia. Some studies show that rhythmic music may stimulate certain parts of the brain, boosting cognitive activity. Beyond that, music can help maintain a dementia patient’s quality of life, offering the following benefits:

  • Enhanced memory recall
  • Improved mood and positive emotional state
  • Pain and discomfort management
  • General cognitive stimulation
  • Social stimulation


Do you still have questions about how music therapy works? The American Music Therapy Association offers a variety of resources for patients and caregivers across the country. You can check out the AMTA website for more information on statistics, studies, and help finding a music therapist near you.

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