Music Therapy for promoting wellness has received increased attention over the last few years, due in part to the rise in the practice of integrative medicine. Karl Bruhn, often called the “Father of the Music Making and Wellness Movement,” contends that it is because “people are demanding more than the absence of disease to be well. They also want reduced illness risk, managed stress, better energy, daily enjoyment, personal development, satisfying relationships, and feelings of belonging.” Music therapy for wellness is here to answer the call.
Two types of music activities are used in music therapy for wellness, passive and active. Below is a description of each one, along with uses and suggestions.
Passive music includes listening to music, vibroacoustic therapy, meditation to music, and the use of crystal singing bowls.
Passive music listening refers to the use of specifically programmed music in order to evoke a particular mood or other non-musical effect. One example is listening to music that helps a person to relax and perhaps even obtain more restful sleep. Another example is turning on music while doing housecleaning in order to energize your body.
But what kind of music is relaxing and what kind is energizing? Many theories exist to explain the differences in terms of rhythm, dynamics, and lyrical quality. However, it was finally concluded that sedative music and stimulative music, as they are called in music therapy terminology, is unique to the individual listener.
The most important factor contributing to the effect of music on physiology and therefore immune response and relaxation? Preference. Feelings rule the day when it comes to music therapy and wellness. And study after study show that “listening to music capable of generating positive listening experiences and relaxation” (Taylor, 1997) increases activity of helper-T cells and production of interleukin-1, both important indicators of immune system recovery.
In addition to increasing the blood levels of these substances, music listening of this kind has also been shown to decrease glucocorticoid, the main antagonist in reduced immune functioning and increased stress.
Assessing preferences is a very simple process. The first step is to gather several musical selections from many different styles. Play each piece and have the client note his or her response to it. You can design a form to record these responses or just use an open-ended format. Some therapists like to have their clients use a rating scale, with 1 being the least relaxing and 10 being the most relaxing and so on.
While passive music listening requires the activation of the cerebral cortex, the use of crytsal singing bowls does not. The tones produced by these finely tuned instruments can be felt in different parts of the body depending on their vibrational frequencies. This “sound therapy” is then said to penetrate into the cells, re-balancing them through oscillation and resonance. Crystal bowl therapy also helps to balance the chakra system and re-energize the auric field.
On the other end of the spectrum of music therapy for wellness is active music making. It includes playing a musical instrument, singing, group drumming, and vocal toning.
Active music making is in some ways seen as superior to passive music activities. Like passive music listening, active music making can powerfully influence people’s thoughts and feelings. But it also expands mental abilities, provides physical and all-encompassing relief from daily stressors, and leads to positive self-esteem and good self-care.
Probably the most accessible active music making activity is drumming. Remo has done much to further the cause of group drumming, even going so far as to sponsor a research study in cooperation with Dr. Barry Bittman’s integrative medicine clinic in Meadville, PA. The study, entitled “Composite Effects of Groups Drumming Music Therapy on Modulation of Neuroendocrine-Immune Parameters in Normal Subjects,” demonstrated that statistically significant increases in the activity of cellular immune components responsible for seeking out and destroying cancer cells and viruses could be produced by participating in a single drumming session.
Vocal toning involves using your voice to relieve stress in the body, resulting in emotional and physical well-being. Most people have a tone or small range of tones that are easy for them to sound. Typically a vowel sound, this tone is most effective when sounded in an enclosed space so that it can surround the “toner.” Toning has been shown to relieve cold and flu symptoms, reduce swelling from burns and scratches, and even improving circulation.
Please contact Rana Zellner Burr, MT-BC if you have any further questions.