“Music imprints itself on the brain deeper than any other human experience. Music evokes emotion and emotion can bring with it memory. Music brings back the feeling of life when nothing else can.” –Oliver Sacks
The cathartic effects of music have been recognized for nearly as long as music has been alive. Across the globe, individuals fall into the beat of their favorite song on days when nothing seems to go right; they find refuge in their favorite album when the world seems bleak. As Bob Marley once said,
“One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.”
Surprisingly, the birth of music as a therapeutic tool occurred relatively late in the game. Although the healing effects of music have been known to man for centuries, only recently has it been implemented into a therapeutic movement.
Playlist Therapy is Music Therapy
Playlist therapy is a unique take on the therapeutic relationship, it involves counselors utilizing music in order to accomplish treatment goals. The decision to treat clients with music is founded in the evidence-based interventions of Music Therapy associations across the globe, which incorporate creating, singing, dancing to, and/or listening to music in the clinical setting.
One major barrier in the typical counseling environment is that individuals must address how they are feeling directly, and typically in a verbal form. Unfortunately, some clients have trouble expressing themselves in words and, thus, struggle to convey their emotions to the counselor. Playlist therapy works to resolve this issue by granting individuals a medium through which they can communicate.
The Seven Benefits of Playlist Therapy (Vann, M., 2016)
Whist the benefits of playlist therapy can vary from setting to setting, it has several advantages that occur across all contexts. Playlist therapy can:
- Increase relaxation and promote anxiety release
- Reduce loneliness by simulating a sense of companionship
- Provide emotional release through creating, playing, and listening
- Evoke a spiritual connection through themes in the music played
- Promote heart health and lower blood pressure by allowing for ease of blood flow
- Fight addiction for inpatient populations
- Decrease stress by redirecting focus
Using Playlist Therapy
Playlist therapy is used in a wide variety of ways depending upon the setting, some common examples include:
In both inpatient and non-inpatient populations, playlist therapy can be enormously useful in aiding the therapeutic relationship. Typically, in this setting, music allows clients to explore feelings, promote positive behavioral and emotional changes, foster feelings of control over the environment, manage conflict and develop problem solving strategies, whilst strengthen peer relationships.
Playlist therapy is also appropriate for use in settings that do not focus on its therapeutic benefits, such as medical environments. Playlist therapy is often used in hospitals to alleviate pain (typically in combination with anesthesia), to reduce or lessen fear or apprehension about procedures or treatment, elevate patient moods, decrease muscle tension, and promote relaxation.
Playlist therapy can also be used in academic settings, particularly ones occupied by younger children, or to assist students who have special learning requirements. Playlist therapy is primarily used in schools to strengthen communication skills and boost physical coordination.
Playlist therapy makes an appearance across the lifespan, initially in childhood education and, finally, in the context of a nursing home. In this setting, playlist therapy is used to increase physical, mental, social, and emotional functioning in geriatric populations and provide intellectual stimulation to improve the residents’ quality of life.
A Take Home Message
It is not news that music increases well-being and the experience of positive emotions in virtually every individual who is able to hear and is willing to listen. However, the benefits of music in assisting clinical populations is now being more greatly explored over the past century. We have seen incredible advances in the field and will continue to find the value of Playlist Therapy growing and spreading sanity, serenity, hope and inspiration into lives across the planet through the healing beat of music.
Looking for Some More Information?
Erin Seibert is a passionate music therapist whose mission to make people understand the value of music therapy. Learn more about this fascinating therapeutic technique here:
A career in music therapy. American Music Therapy Association. Retrieved from http://www.musictherapy.org/careers/employment/#A_CAREER_IN_MT
FAQ: Music therapy. American Music Therapy Association. Retrieved from http://www.musictherapy.org/faq/#267
Vann, M. (2016). The amazing benefits of music therapy. Everyday Health. Retrieved from http://www.everydayhealth.com/womens-health/benefits-of-music-therapy.aspx