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How Can Music Therapy Help Improve Mental Health?

Learn all about how music therapy can help improve mental health, the different types, benefits, and limitations.


What is Music Therapy?

According to the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA), music therapy is the clinical and evidence-based use of music treatments by a trained practitioner who has completed an accredited music therapy curriculum to achieve customized goals within a therapeutic partnership.1 

How Can Music Therapy Benefit Overall Wellness?

Music therapy can help to:

  • Promote individual well-being
  • Reduce stress
  • Improve memory and communication
  • Encourage physical rehabilitation.

How Can Music Help You Heal?

Physiologic and psychological effects have been observed as a result of the music’s influence. Aspects of music, such as rhythm, melody, harmony, and pace generate a cognitive and emotional reaction that can make up the subjective element of pain, helping to enhance mood and healing.

The vibratory aspect of music's primary elements–pitch and rhythm–may activate the neurohormonal system to produce endorphins. Endorphins are opioid analgesics produced by the brain. The limbic system (the emotional center that music affects), deals with both pleasant and painful memories, and can trigger the release of endorphins. Endorphin production and a drop in catecholamine can lower the body’s heart rate, blood pressure, breathing rate, and oxygen consumption.2

How Does Music Therapy Work?

Music as therapy has helped patients to decrease anxiety and stress, as well as boost their self-esteem through the use of the five elements listed below:

Modulation of Attention

Modulation of attention is the first part of music therapy. When music plays, it attracts our interest and distracts us from other external stimuli that may cause unpleasant feelings like worry, discomfort, or anxiety.

Modulation of Emotion

The second method of music therapy is to alter one's emotions. Music as therapy has been demonstrated in several studies to govern the limbic system, which is the part of the brain that controls our emotions (the amygdala, the hippocampus, and the hypothalamus).

Modulation of Cognition

Music therapy for mental health aids in the modulation of cognition or mental processes. The way we process ideas and impulses (encoding, retention, and decoding) is connected to our experience listening  to music, hearing songs, sounds, melodies, etc.

Modulation of Behavior

One of the effects of musical therapy is how it aids in modifying negative habits and behaviors. People can become conditioned to enhance their actions, such as how they walk and speak, by creating associations between music and behavior. 

Modulation of Communication

Communication is vital in life, especially when it comes to relationships. Because music is the global language and a form of communication in and of itself, it may play an essential part in the effect of music therapy in helping individuals open up more and express their feelings better.

Types of Music Therapy

There are a variety of music therapy types available. A few of the different types will be detailed below.3

Analytical Music Therapy

Analytical music therapy (AMT), established by British therapist Mary Priestley, helps patients to communicate unconscious ideas via spontaneous musical "conversations” that participants may then reflect on.3

Benenzon Music Therapy

The Benenzon format mixes psychoanalytic notions with the process of creating music. It strives to identify the exterior sounds that most closely fit an interior psychological condition.

Cognitive-Behavioral Music Therapy

This method mixes music and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Music therapy for psychiatric patients is utilized in CBMT to reinforce and change certain behaviors.4

Community Music Therapy

This therapy style focuses on utilizing music to help people transform their lives within their communities. The group setting necessitates a high level of participation from all involved.

Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy

This method encourages patients to play musical instruments while being given guidance. Though originally created with the needs of disabled children in mind, it has been used to enhance the lives of people with dementia, trauma, and other assorted mental health issues.5

The Bonny Method of Guided Imagery and Music (GIM)

Classical music is employed in this type of treatment to enhance the patient's imagination. Using this approach, patients can describe the sentiments, sensations, memories, and visuals they experience when listening to music.

Vocal Psychotherapy

In vocal psychotherapy the patient uses a variety of voice exercises, natural sounds, and breathing methods to connect with their emotions and impulses.

What Music Therapy Can Help With

Music therapy has shown to improve the mental health of patients with the following diseases and symptoms.

Alzheimer’s Disease

People with Alzheimer's disease and other varieties of dementia may benefit emotionally and behaviorally from listening to music or singing songs.6

Anxiety or Stress

Music affects the amount of stress hormones released by the body, such as adrenaline and cortisol.  Lowering these chemicals can assist reduce anxiety symptoms.7

Chronic Pain

Music has been clinically demonstrated to activate pain-regulating and pain-inhibiting parts of the brain. This suggests that listening to music can assist our brain in controlling and reducing pain in the body.


Music therapy, which entails recurring appointments with a trained music therapist, has increased mood by allowing people to express themselves emotionally.8

Emotional Dysregulation

More complicated concerns, such as loss, abandonment, or highly conflicted emotions, can be addressed with music therapy approaches.

Feelings of Low Self-Esteem

Music is a flexible instrument that may be used to help individuals develop and nurture self-esteem.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Patients experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) who listen to or make music can frequently benefit from music therapy. Listening to calming music can help patients relax and cope with their worries, allowing them to get the most out of their therapies.

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) 

Music therapy is an advanced treatment for TBI rehabilitation. It promotes muscular control, improves memory, and helps patients regain speaking skills. Because music therapy involves several brain regions at once, it significantly improves brain function.

Benefits of Music Therapy

Music therapy is an advanced treatment for TBI rehabilitation. It promotes muscular control, improves memory, and helps patients regain speaking skills. Because music therapy involves several brain regions at once, it significantly improves brain function.

Health Benefits of Music Therapy

The following are some of the healing benefits of music:

  • Improved self-esteem
  • Decreased anxiety
  • Increased motivation
  • Successful and safe emotional release

  • Increased verbalization
  • Stronger connections with other people

Limitations of Music Therapy

  • Overstimulation: Different people enjoy different forms of music or genres, while others are entirely uninterested in music. Hearing a specific song, artist, or genre of music may cause the patient to become more emotional or have an adverse psychological and emotional reaction.
  • Memory Triggering: Music might bring up memories from the past, and these recollections may not be as pleasant as the patient would like. 
  • Anxiety: If a patient is depressed and listens to a sad song, it may increase the anxiety level resulting in emotional disorders.
Music as Therapy

Music Therapy at Anew Treatment Center

Although most music therapy sessions are one-on-one, if group sessions are offered, one may opt to engage in them.

Where Does Music Therapy Typically Occur?

If you or your loved one could benefit from music therapy, there are a few different opportunities as far as where to pursue the treatment. A music therapist's sessions can take place anywhere, but usually occur in the following places:

  • Clinics
  • Community health centers
  • Detention centers
  • Hospitals
  • Private offices
  •  Rehabilitation centers

A Unique Healing Journey at Anew Treatment Center

At Anew Treatment Center, we incorporate music therapy to treat mental health issues like dementia, emotional dysfunction, neurological disorders, and many others. We have professionals who have been trained in the therapeutic use of music to help our clients on their journey to mental health and overall wellness.

Our overarching goal has always been helping others to develop themselves mentally, emotionally, and even physically. We look forward to being a potential part of your wellness journey.

Learn More About Our Treatment Programs

Our team is ready to talk and determine how we can help. Rest assured your call is confidential. We're here for you.