The Missouri legislature is discussing a bill (HCR 33) designed to document that music therapy offers health benefits. I became interested when I noted that Dr. Clint McCann used as an example, “when the Psalms are sung, chanted, or read the resulting effect opens the heart to receive what the singer, cantor, or reader most needs – reducing stress, regaining health, or dealing with grief from loss of a loved one.” Read more about this subject in a guest blog written by David Corbitt, Committee on Publication for Missouri.
Some may be familiar with the phrase “music has charms to soothe the savage breast.” Or its misreported common version that “music has charms to soothe the savage beast.” I would venture that most of us have read the Bible story of a young boy named David playing his harp for King Saul who, most likely, was battling bouts of depression and possibly mental illness. Just as the savage breast needs consoling and the beast taming, the effects of music has been portrayed throughout history as bringing comfort and calm. The same can be seen in the stories of King Saul. These are illustrations of music therapy in action.
Is it possible that music could actually reduce physical pain? How about relieving mental suffering while under cancer treatment? Can music therapy relieve stress in our busy lives?
Quantitative and qualitative evidence is beginning to point to “yes.”
I remember back in my teenage years during the 1960s and 70s how I would hang out in my room with the latest rock or soul hit blaring. My mom would bang on the door, yelling at me to “turn down that God-awful noise.” To me the songs were truly therapeutic and a stress reliever, while to my mom they definitely had a different effect. Nonetheless, effects on both of us were evident.
I admit that I am a bit unique when it comes to music. I have not met a music genre that I did not like. This can annoy my daughters as I sing along with their music and then change the station to a classical music station followed by a religious music station, followed by jazz, etc.
Enjoying music like I do is one thing, using it formally as therapy is quite another. So what is some of the new evidence from health professionals that music can be a useful tool in the implementation of care for our physical, mental and psychological needs?
A Canadian study led by Sandi Curtis, a music therapy professor at the Concordia University Department of Creative Arts Therapies, found that a project involving musicians from a professional symphony orchestra resulted in a wide range of benefits for hospital patients.
Australian singer Olivia Newton-John knows better than most how music can benefit wellbeing. “Writing and listening to music is very healing for me,” she explains. “I wrote one album, Gaia, when I had breast cancer and the music was a way for me to heal.” Her recent album Grace and Gratitude Renewed was created to promote “healing, relaxation and meditation”. Newton-John is also on the cusp of opening a Cancer and Wellness Centre in Melbourne, and hopes music therapy will play a role alongside yoga, massage and art therapy.
Recently I heard on NPR (National Public Radio) about a legislative bill (HCR 33) in Missouri being discussed this session. The bill is designed to document that music therapy offers health benefits and should be considered an important healthcare service for Missourians. It begins by defining music therapy as “the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program.”
It goes on to define the scope of music therapy:
WHEREAS, music therapy is a health field that offers benefits across all developmental domains and supports patients of all ages and ability levels, including but not limited to, children, adolescents, adults, and the elderly; and
WHEREAS, research has shown that music therapy can help Alzheimer’s patients regain cognitive function, premature infants gain weight, autistic children communicate, stroke patients regain speech and mobility, dental, surgical, and orthopedic patients control chronic pain, and psychiatric patients manage anxiety and depression; and
WHEREAS, research has shown music therapy to be a cost-effective service by reducing medication costs, addressing multiple domains in one session, and increasing medical staff efficiency”
The bill also states that more than 28,000 Missourians receive music therapy every year administered by 135 board-certified music therapists. The resolution closes by reiterating, “music therapy is a valid and important health care service for Missourians.”
While taking a seminary class from Dr. Clint McCann at Eden Seminary I began to better understand the power of music when it is also combined with and found in hymns or prayers. McCann used the Book of Psalms as an example. He said, “when the Psalms are sung, chanted, or read the resulting effect opens the heart to receive what the singer, cantor, or reader most needs — reducing stress, regaining health, or dealing with grief from loss of a loved one.” More of Dr. McCann’s commentary on the book of Psalms can be found in The New Interpreter’s Bible Volume IV.
For me, music of all kinds and from many countries around the world can be therapeutic, calming, stimulating, and even healing. When I feel out of sorts music often brings me back to a sense of balance and harmony. I thought I was alone – or at least in the minority of opinion – until I began researching this idea of music as physical, mental, and spiritual therapy. Dedicated and deliberate research in this field dates back for decades. I had heard somewhere, some time ago that music as therapy was being given consideration but was surprised at the depth, breadth and length of research in this field.
Have you been touched or re-centered by listening to a song? Have you experienced the uplifting effects of music? Missourians who are seeking improved health may soon have one more recognized treatment option to assist them.
Link to David Corbitt’s blog