Music Therapy: The Best Way to Help Children with Mental Illness? Essay Sample
Since early times, music has been used to improve happiness and diminish pain and distress. (Kathi J. Kemper & Suzanne C. Danhauer, 2005). “The concept that music has healing qualities has persisted for centuries” (Doron K. Antrim, 1944, p.409). Singing has been used to heal by many primitive tribes, and even there was a legend from the 17th century that music cures people when bitten by the tarantula (Antrim, 1944, p.410). Throughout the history, in many cultures music is believed to have healing power. Even in the past when there was no science to prove the effectiveness of music, people witnessed the healing and soothing effect of music. Still continuing today, the concept of healing music is even more spreading and becoming popular.
In modern day, every culture has developed music of its own, and the popularity of music is shown and measured by the number of internet websites about the topic; following sex, music is the second popular listing on the Google, the internet search website (Kemper & Danhauer, 2005). However, using music as therapy has been a recent development in health care, widely helping children who suffer from various psychological and learning disorders such as autism. “Music educators in public schools have experienced an increase in the number of special education students that are placed in music education classrooms since the passage of the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975” (Allyson Patterson, 2003, p.35). Music therapy is publically accepted in every aspect of society including schools and hospitals. Sylvia Parriott (1969), who graduated from the school of Nursing in University of California, described music therapy as, “The power of music as therapy comes from its ability to control moods, communicate feelings, and enlarge the consciousness” (p.1723).
American Music Therapy Association (http://www.musictherapy.org) defines music therapy as the clinical and evidence based use of music to achieve patients’ goals within a therapeutic relationship. Many patients, especially children whose worse fear is taking medicine or having a surgery, would be attracted to the treatment for the fact that it safe, cheap and not painful. Even though music therapy and its effectiveness is widely accepted and already been investigated by several research studies, it is still controversial whether the therapy should be used to treat children with severe psychological disorders because of their skepticism about the effectiveness of it. Music, which determines one’s mood regardless of his or her age or preference, should be used to treat children because of its safe characteristic. Music therapy does not require any verbal language to understand because it directly applies physiological effects through the autonomic nervous system (Kemper & Danhauer, 2005, p.282). Additionally, music therapists carefully choose right kind of music for each patient, taking the child’s preference of music and symptoms into their account.
Ranges of variation of benefits from music therapy depend from the clients. For example, words or emotion that is difficult to express can be associated through the application of music. By letting the therapists do their work, they will probably help the client attain its full potential of emotional freedom and self realization.
According to American music therapy Association (http://www.musictherapy.org), a music therapist has to hold a bachelor’s degree or higher in music therapy from one of American Music Therapy Association approved college. In addition, “within the last 10 years three schools have been established to train and certify musicians to play therapeutic music at the bedside for patients in hospitals and other clinical institutions” (Richards, Johnson, Sparks & Emerson, 2007, p.7). Even though music therapy seems unprofessional and not related to medical therapy in the way that it is using music to treat children, music therapy is prescribed by doctors and music is carefully selected by trained music therapists. “Music therapists are most likely to be located in settings that normally employ other members of the helping professions such a physicians, clinical psychologists, social workers, and rehabilitation specialists” (Richard M. Graham, 1982, p.71).
Another huge advantage of music therapy is that it is risk free. When common sense precautions are considered, “music is quite safe” (Kemper & Danhauer, 2005, p.286). Music therapists are expected to “translate medical, psychological, or educational prescriptions for any group or individual into musical experiences” (Graham, 1982, p.72). Unlike popular misconception about music therapy, the treatment is organized, professional, and effective.
Critics of this new unique treatment point out that music can be interpreted differently among different patients’ because personal and individual music preference and experience may contribute to the meaning of music. Michelle Lefevre (2004), who is lecturer in social work and social care, cited in her article, “it has also been suggested that music conveys forms of feelings, which cannot be expressed in other ways and experiences which transcend words, e.g. traumatic or pre-verbal experiences, aspects of the unconscious and transpersonal experiences” (p.335). It’s true that music may have diverse effects, based on patient characteristics such as age, culture, personality, and musical capacity. However, certain kinds of music seem to have dependable physiologic effects, regardless of large individual and cultural variations of music (Kemper & Danhauer, 2005, p283).
These two authors show an example in which music preference does not matter when music affects one’s psychology and mood: teenagers had depressing psychological responses to hard rock music, even when they enjoyed listening to it (Kemper & Danhauer, 2005, p284). Instead, certain aspects of music seem to affect patients’ mood and psychology. Characteristics of music, such as musical phrases, scales, modes and rhythms appear to effect patients psychologically (Lefevre, 2004, p.335).The above example about teenagers shows that regardless of personal music preference, music therapy has a certain effect on mood of patients. Therefore, the point of critics about music preference is false. There is even non-human case in which the effectiveness of music is shown. “In mice, exposure to noise leads to physiologic stress, manifested as significantly increased airway reactivity and increased allergic reactions” (Kemper & Danhauer, 2005, p.283). It is clearly shown here that music has direct affects on the autonomic nervous system; mice do have neither musical skill nor their preference of music.
It is true that there exist various kinds of treatments for children with mental illness and learning disorders. Particularly autistic children can be treated with interactive therapies or antipsychotic drugs (Susan Morgan, 2007). However, these treatments either require verbal skill or carry some serious side effects. Lefevre (2004) claims, “Verbal language is only one of a wide range of means by which children understand and communicate their internal experience” (p.334). This only means that children do not have to receive a verbal therapy to communicate and cure the illness. Moreover, Brown (1994) argued that music therapy allow the person with autism to communicate with their therapist and other person through the application of music. Here, person with autism will experience wider range of emotions and will actually let the person engaged in more participating situations that will enhance his communicating capability with others. Additionally, children with mental illness and children who have been sexually abused are main clients of music therapy, and they are most likely individuals having difficulties with verbal communication with therapists (Lefevre, 2004, p336).
Music is the perfect alternative communication, which would connect young patients with therapists. According to Parriott (1969), who have treated numerous children with music therapy, “music can be work as communication, social interaction, and can change children’s energy level and emotional status” (p.1725). Music, which does not require verbal communication skill and is side-effect free, is very effective way to treat children who were either abused or suffering mental illness.
The treatment that music therapy can give is based on the basic idea that human being has intrinsic character of response to music. Regardless of physical and emotional disability, illnesses and incompetence in action, people naturally respond to what they hear. Many music therapists believed that to make the best results in the cure of certain disability or illnesses of a patient, the patient and his own therapists should make a good communication through music. This communication through music particularly points to rhythm of the heartbeat and spoken voice (Feigh, 2006, p. 48).
Lefevre (2004) claims that “children, generally, formulate and communicate much of their experience, thoughts and feelings at a symbolic level, thus anyone working directly with children needs to appreciate such communication and respond in the same mode” (p.342). Music therapists approach children with music, which is symbolic and non-verbal. “Supporting children to understand, express, manage and communicate their ideas, views and feelings is a vital ingredient of investigation, assessment, decision-making and therapeutic interventions” (Lefevre, 2004, p333). Also due to its low cost and ease of administration, music therapy can be easily accessed by patients of any social class (Richards, Johnson, Sparks & Emerson, 2007, p 13).
Carefully chosen by trained music therapists, music therapy is designed to be suitable for each patient. Music therapy thus, requires time and it is up to the therapist to make the decision and should be agreed upon. Aside from that the environment of the therapy should also be clear. The therapist and the client should agree if the patient should be treated on a one-to-one or group basis. Kemper and Danhauer (2005) have suggested that customized music can greatly lessen stress, develop a sense of ease and rest and distract from pain. Even though the effectiveness of music is diminutively related to the personality of patient, music therapists consider children’s taste in music, personality, and symptoms when selecting music to maximize the effectiveness of the therapy. The flexibility to alter the content of music therapy would help to reach the best therapeutic goals of pediatric patients. However, other treatments lack the flexibility and will end up in less favorable results.
It is true that the recently developed therapy lack as much evidence as other children therapies. Critics may believe that music therapy is undependable, since the results can vary among different children. However, evidence regarding the effectiveness of music therapy contains dependable data and most research studies of music therapy have demonstrated the effectiveness. Skim through the table included on the next page (Richards et al., 2007) the table is used to show the effectiveness and patients’ satisfactory level of music therapy. Every research study included controlled group to prove the accuracy, and statistics are shown to demonstrate patients’ satisfaction.
Researches in music therapy’s effectiveness are conducted in years. More recently, collaboration between psychological researchers and music therapists has produced quantitative and qualitative data that analyze the effectiveness of such therapy. The adoption of music in the related interaction between parent and infant has been established scientifically in infant developmental research. According to Pavlicevic (1997), clinical adaptation and intensification of communication is fundamental to the music therapy application. Gold and Elefant (2006) review of the effects music therapy on children with autism proved that the therapy may help the improvement of communicative skills of the children.
Even though there are only a few research studies regarding music therapy, they were recent and scientifically measured. Additionally, the results are outstanding that a slight error would still make these studies favorable to the effectiveness of music therapy.
According to Doron (1944), one of the special advantages of music as a therapeutic device is that it takes up where medicine leaves off (p.409). After a long treatment with drugs, a child’s body will be very weak, vulnerable, and may be on chemical dependency to the prescribed drug. When stopped taking drug, music therapy would be the best treatment, since it does not harm the body and psychologically soothe the patient.
Admittedly, drugs have more direct effects on children’s bodies when treating. Critics of this proposal point out those drugs are more effective and because results of drug treatment are accurate and works for everyone, it is a better treatment. However, medical treatment is not only about maximizing the result, but also minimizing the risk that comes with it. For example, antipsychotic drug, which is prescribed to autistic children, have notorious side effects. According to the website of National Institute of Mental Health,
Antipsychotic drugs, like virtually all medications, have unwanted effects along with their beneficial effects. During the early phases of antipsychotic drug treatment, patients may be troubled by side effects such as drowsiness, restlessness, muscle spasms, tremor, dry mouth, or blurring of vision. Most of these can be corrected by lowering the dosage or can be controlled by other medications. Different patients have different treatment responses and side effects to various antipsychotic drugs. A patient may do better with one drug than another. (http://www.concernedcounseling.com, 2000)
While taking drugs can have best results, these are also negative outcomes one can experience. Additionally, music therapy’s approach to patients is different from that of drugs. Music therapy has effects on one’s psychology, while the other treatment has direct effects on physical bodies of patients. Therefore, music therapy can be used to treat illness that there is no drug invented to cure it.
In America, music therapy is widely accepted for its safeness. The treatment psychologically treats children, which many other treatments are not capable of. Even though it was developed recently, the effectiveness is clear and as a result, many American hospitals have been applied music therapy to various kinds of patients. Among them, children are included, and usually they are treated for their mental illness or learning disorder. Well trained music therapists carefully design music, which will be used to treat each patient. Personal music preference is only minor to the result of music therapy, because “music appears to exert direct physiologic effects through the autonomic nervous system” (Kemper & Danhauer, 2005, p.282). Children are psychologically vulnerable and fragile. The use of music as a healing instrument, though many criticizes it, is the most preferred treatment that families because of its natural effect and a low percentage of side effect to physical body.
All treatment may it be used of high medicinal drugs, music or any natural healing process are certainly for good. The only perk of using music as a therapy compared to other treatment is that even at home parents can make their disable or sick member of the family enable to undergo music listening. Lastly, using music therapy as a healing process goes back to the heritage of music healing centuries ago. Thus, music therapy must be improved and take into consideration in healthcare for the benefit of mankind.
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