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Running Head: THE IMPORTANCE AND LEGITIMACY OF MUSIC THERAPY IN 1

SOCIETY AND AS A FIELD OF STUDY

The Importance and Legitimacy of Music Therapy in Society and as a Field of Study

Lucas Allen

ENG 300

Alexander Poole, PhD.

Western Kentucky University

November 29, 2017


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ABSTRACT

Music therapy is a field that is often underappreciated, but it is a field that most people

have had an experience with, whether or not they are aware. It is a growing field of research that

many undergraduate music students are extremely interested in. People often do not take this

field seriously, or even believe in it at all. There are several universities that offer multiple

undergraduate music degrees, but Music Therapy is usually not on the list. The approach to this

research was to find real, evidence-based examples of music therapy working in the real world.

There were several findings, such as the increased happiness and reduced stress levels in patients

dealing with mental illness and complicated grief, physical and mental healing of patients with

multiple sclerosis, the neural and behavioral rehabilitation of patients with disorders of

consciousness, and the every day therapeutic aspects of being in an ensemble, singing or playing

music with peers. Music therapy is an incredibly important field of study that should never be

dismissed as illegitimate or unimportant, and universities need to provide undergraduate students

with the opportunity to study the amazing field in order for it to thrive.
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Music therapy is a method used to restore and maintain patients mental health and

promote their stabilization. It is important, first, to establish the difference between music

therapy and music medicine. This can be done by simply thinking of the two keywords: therapy

and medicine. Music therapy involves the patients relationship with the person giving the

intervention, where music medicine does not. An example of music medicine would be if a

patient was given CD recordings to listen to by their doctor. This requires no personal

relationship with the doctor, only the items given to the patient by the doctor. Music therapy,

rather, involves a more personal relationship. This means that the therapist is spending face-to-

face time with the patient, getting to know them and their personal needs and interests, and

treating them using this information. (Magee & Stewart, 2015). There are three areas of music

therapy. Receptive (passive) music therapy is a treatment in which the patient does not have an

active part in the process of the therapy session. Rather, they are a listener. An example of this

would be a therapist singing to a patient. Active music therapy is a treatment where the patient

actively participates in musical activity by playing, singing, and/or improvising. Singing is an

effective way to treat speech disorders, while playing instruments can help to restore movement

in the body. Integrative music therapy is a treatment in which the patient combines music with

other art forms, such as dance or literature (Boiko, Ivanchuk, Gunchenko, & Batysheva, 2017).

These three forms of music therapy, while not always clearly stated, occur in several peoples

lives and have an ample amount of proven benefits.

Music therapy as a field of study is often underappreciated by the masses. There are

plenty of universities and colleges that offer undergraduate music majors in Music Education,

Music Performance, Bachelor of Arts in Music, and Music Industry. In Kentucky specifically,

out of 20 collegiate music departments, only two offer Music Therapy as an undergraduate
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major. (Education News) For a number of reasons, this is incredibly disappointing. There are

many students that are in Music Education/Performance degrees that plan to do Music Therapy

as a graduate degree track. These students dont have much (if any) exposure to formal training

in the field of music therapy prior to graduate school, which could possibly prevent them from

being accepted into those music therapy graduate degree programs. While these students are

paying loads of tuition dollars to get a music degree, they arent able to study what they plan to

make a career out of. They sit in classes throughout every single day such as conducting classes,

pedagogical methods classes for certain instruments, instrumental/vocal ensembles, etc when

they could be in classes related to music therapy. There certainly are classes in the previously

mentioned music degrees that contain content that is applicable to Music Therapy, such as music

theory, teaching elementary music, and so forth, but the fact that these universities offer little to-

no education directly focused towards music therapy is a terrible problem. If universities arent

producing people that can do music therapy work, there will be less music therapy work done,

and the people that severely need these forms of therapy will be left hopeless.

An incredible instance of reactive music therapy was captured on film by the Alive Inside

Foundation. They performed music therapy on an elderly man named Henry in a nursing home,

using an iPod to restore memory and speaking ability. Henry is typically in an almost vegetative

state. His family members speak of his former self as fun-loving and singing. In the video

clip from the Alive Inside Foundation documentary, Henry is struggling to make full sentences,

with some of his words sounding like random noises with no intention of making sense. Henrys

family had the music therapists put together a playlist on an iPod containing religious music,

considering Henrys love for music and the Holy Bible. When he is given the iPod with

headphones, his face immediately lights up and he begins dancing and singing, with a gigantic
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smile and bright eyes. When the headphones are taken off, he is asked certain questions about the

music he just listened to and the music he used to listen to as a child. Henry, normally virtually

mute, unable to speak and form sentences, is speaking in completely coherent words and

sentences.

One popular area of music therapy deals with disorders of consciousness (DOC). A pilot

study was done on patients with Unresponsive Wakefulness Syndrome (UWS). One patient was

a 70 year-old man who had lived with UWS for three years. The therapist used information about

the patient, given by his wife, to design their experiment. For example, his wife said that they

loved harp music ever since they took a vacation to Ireland, so the therapist applied that

information and played the harp to him during the first few weeks of practice, incorporating

some chances for him to play it himself. Eventually, as the patient became more attentive, the

therapist incorporated more biographical information by singing songs from the 1950s that the

patient used to play with a band when he was younger. The therapist not only played and sang to

him, but had him play rhythms of the songs on a frame drum. The video analysis of the

experiment with this patient showed several positive outcomes related to the patients

wakefulness and attention. When he looks at instruments, his eyebrows are raised, which shows

concentration. In the first week, his breath had a constant rhythm, but after the experiment, his

breath varies depending on the activity or therapeutic intervention. This therapist used the

reactive approach, while moving along to incorporate active music therapy (Vogl, Heine,

Steinhoff, Weiss, and Tucek, 2015).

There was an integrative music therapy study done on patients with Parkinsons disease,

in which they moved to real music and imaginary music. This study shows that moving to real

music activates specific cerebellar areas, where moving to imagined music activated pre-
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supplementary and basal ganglia motor areas. This shows that the types of dancing have a

different neural basis (Srkm, Altenmller, Rodrguez-Fornells, Peretz, 2016). This research

has the potential to help many music therapists to have a more specific idea of what types of

music therapy will be beneficial for people with different neurological or physical issues. There

was another study done on post-stroke patients using music-supported training. This study

proved that playing instruments can improve the motor recovery of arm movements after a

stroke. Half of the patients were asked to play simultaneously with a group, and the other half to

play one-after-another individually. The one-after-another group showed greater improvement in

fine motor skills. This suggests that stroke patients benefit from learning through observation

when it comes to music-supported training (Srkm, Altenmller, Rodrguez-Fornells, Peretz,

2016).

Alicia Clair Gibbons, director of music therapy at the University of Kansas, conducted an

experiment on rhythmic responses in emotionally-disturbed children with differing needs for

external structure. The children were rated by professionals on a scale of mild, moderate, and

severe needs for structure. The children were asked to play rhythmic patterns on conga drums

after the pattern was demonstrated for them via audio tape. The study showed that the children

with mild need for structure had a higher mean score of correct rhythms than the students with

moderate need for structure and the students with severe need for structure. However, there was

not much of a difference between the students with moderate and severe need for structure.

Gibbons herself admits that this may have been due to faulty categorization. Even with the odd

occurrence between moderate and severe, it is still apparent that the children with mild need for

structure highly succeeded in comparison to the others (Gibbons, 1983).


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One study was done on adults with mental illness and complicated grief using music

therapy as grief therapy. The results of the experiment found that music therapy and vocal

improvisation, in addition to standard treatment, was a helpful treatment for the patients

involved. Some of these adults would sing improvised, imaginary dialogues with their loved

ones who had passed away, and it was a beneficial experience for them emotionally. The author

of article clarifies that the results of the experiment are not necessarily generalizable, because of

the specific limitations involved in the experiment. The author states More research is

recommended to confirm these findings (Iliya, 2015). Though the results of this experiment

arent generalizable, it is an extremely powerful imagination to think about the feeling these

people must have experienced while singing songs to their passed loved ones.

Nick Stewart and Adam Lonsdale wrote a journal article in the Psychology of Music

journal about the psychological benefits of singing in a choir. Singing or playing in an ensemble

is an example of active music therapy, but it is more-so focused on maintaining happiness and

psychological satisfaction, rather than intervention-style therapy. To quote the article, choral

singing is an example of an activity that involves joint action, or the ability of individuals to

coordinate their actions with those of others (Stewart & Lonsdale 2016). The self-determination

theory (SDT) is also a large part of being in a choir, or in a musical ensemble in general. Stewart

and Lonsdale define the SDT as the self-determination theory describes the conditions thought

to be necessary for an individual to be motivated and psychologically healthy. Self-

determination can be broken up into two types of motivation: extrinsic motivation and intrinsic

motivation. Extrinsic motivation refers to an individual being motivated in order to obtain a

reward from someone or something else. For example, if an elementary school math teacher

bribes the students with a pizza party or a piece of candy for turning in homework or doing well
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on an exam, the students will typically do their best on the work specifically for that reward. On

another hand, an intrinsically motivated individual does things for their own satisfaction. The

intrinsically motivated elementary school child would do all of their homework for the sake of

learning the content, not for the sake of getting a pizza party. Participating in a musical ensemble

or playing an instrument is typically a students choice, which means that they will most likely

be intrinsically motivated to do well in that area. This intrinsic motivation leads to personal

satisfaction, and this personal satisfaction leads to the psychological benefits of playing or

singing music with an ensemble (Stewart and Lonsdale, 2016).

The evidence previously provided is extremely moving. The fact that music has so much

power that it can heal people that have trouble speaking, moving, and doing normal, every day

things, is something that should not be ignored or taken for granted. It is unbelievable that people

do not see the importance and legitimacy music therapy. It is so often looked at as a lower-level

field of study in music, as opposed to the education and performance degrees. Most people have

never even heard of music therapy, and given the amount of assistance it provides people, this is

a serious problem. It needs to be recognized and supported by colleges and universities, not only

in Kentucky, but across the world. If these universities breed music therapists that can help

people be people on a daily basis, there will be extremely positive life-changing events in an

immeasurable amount of peoples lives.


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References

Batysheva, T.T., Boiko, E.A., Gunchenko, M.M., & Ivanchuk, E.V. (2017). The potential of

music therapy in neurology using multiple sclerosis as an example. Neuroscience and

Behavioral Physiology, Vol. 47(5), 570-572. doi: 10.1007/s11055-017-0437-8

Education News (2006). 20 accredited music schools in Kentucky [Data File]. Retrieved from

http://www.educationnews.org/career-index/music-schools-in-kentucky/

Gibbons, A.C. (1983). Rhythm responses in emotionally disturbed children with differing needs

for external structure. Music Therapy, Vol. 3(1), 94-102. doi: 10.1093/mt/3.1.94

Iliya, Y. A. (2015) Music Therapy as Grief Therapy for Adults With Mental Illness and

Complicated Grief: A Pilot Study. Death Studies, Vol. 39(3) 173-184. doi:

10.1080/07481187.2014.946623

Lonsdale, A. J., & Stewart, N. A. J. (2016) Its better together: The psychological benefits of

singing in a choir. Psychology of Music, Vol. 44(6) 1240-1254. doi:

10.1177/0305735615624976

Magee, W.L., & OKelly J. (2015) Music therapy with disorders of consciousness: current

evidence and emergent evidence-based practice. Ann. N.Y. Acad. Sci. 1337, 256262 doi:

10.1111/nyas.12633

Magee, W.L., & Stewart, L. (2015) The challenges and benefits of a genuine partnership

between music therapy and neuroscience: a dialog between scientist and

therapist. Front. Hum. Neurosci. 9:223. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2015.00223


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Srkm, T., Altenmller, E., Rodrguez-Fornells, A. & Peretz I. (2016) Editorial: Music, brain,

and rehabilitation: Emerging therapeutic applications and potential neural

mechanisms. Front. Hum. Neurosci. 10:103. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2016.00103

Vogl, J., Heine, A.M., Steinhoff, N., Weiss, K. & Tucek G. (2015) Neuroscientific and

neuroanthropological perspectives in music therapy research and practice with patients

with disorders of consciousness. Front. Neurosci. 9, 273. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2015.00273