What Is Music Therapy?

What is music therapy, you may ask? I only discovered this form of therapy the other day, and I’m already planning ways in which I can use this therapy in my daily life. Music can evoke many emotions, and there are therapies surrounding music and its benefits for anxiety and depression.

You don’t need to be a musician or skilled in any instrument; this is about using music to help alleviate depressive thoughts and anxious feelings. It also covers dance and singing, in fact, anything related to music. You can discuss a song or a masterpiece of creativity from opera to rap. You can create your own music or write your own songs; anything to do with music is therapy.

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As therapies go, this is probably the most enjoyable, and if you are wondering how you can benefit and how to use music therapy, I will be covering it in this article.

So, What is Music Therapy and How Can You Benefit?

what is music therapy

You’ll be pleased to know there is research regarding music therapy, and serious people have undertaken studies to find out how it benefits you, from those with learning difficulties to those with mental health issues.

One study looked into individual music therapy for depression and here is what they have to say:

Individual music therapy combined with standard care is effective for depression among working-age people with depression. The results of this study along with the previous research indicate that music therapy with its specific qualities is a valuable enhancement to established treatment practices.

Cambridge University

Knowing what music therapy is and how it can benefit you through your own individual plan can help alleviate some of your depression and anxiety symptoms, especially when used in conjunction with your usual medication and psychological treatments, such as counselling.

Using Music Therapy

I would like to point out that music therapy is fairly new, and more research needs to be done, but it is proving quite positive in helping depression and anxiety. It is not related to sound therapy which is an ancient Tibetan meditation technique. Music therapy is all about using it to make you feel better, stimulate your mind, and treat your condition, and it is usually performed in hospitals and care settings.

However, I believe you can do this outside of a medical setting. Why miss out if you can’t afford the sessions or the waiting list is too long. Learning what is music therapy will help you to fit a session into your weekly self-care routine.

As mentioned previously, there are different areas of music therapy, and these can be broken down even further into specific areas you can work with.

  • Cognitive Behavioural Music Therapy – usually carried out in a monitored session with a therapist.
  • Analytical Music Therapy – you express your thoughts via dialogue in musical form.
  • Community Musical Therapy – as the name suggests, you are with others.
  • Benenzon Music Therapy – searching for your identity within music to match your state of mind.
  • Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy – this involves instruments and is the most creative.
  • Vocal Psychotherapy – you use vocal exercises, breathing techniques and natural sounds to create balance.
  • The Bonny Method of Guided Imagery and Music uses classical music to stimulate the imagination, and you talk about how it makes you feel and the memories it evokes.

As you can see, there is plenty of ways you can introduce music therapy into your life. The community ones and psychoanalytic ones are best carried out in a formal setting. However, you can create your own therapy session at home, which I intend to do by using the Bonny method and the Benenzon therapy.

Planning Your Music Session

what is musical therapy

I’m not an expert on this, and I will be creating my own plan based around classical music as I like classical, and it is the least likely to make me angry or sad.

Music has such an effect on mood; the happier the music, the better the release of feel-good endorphins into the brain, and I want to create as many endorphins as possible. I know I will be using Flight of the Bumblebee by Rimsky-Korsakov and researching other classics. You can do this for your own music preferences.

If you have many feelings of anger, you may want to express those with music that you can shout with, such as metal. Or you may find you have many crying episodes and want to move away from this so that you may choose happier music. Or you could choose sad songs which you then listen to and write about your feelings or draw an image afterwards to express yourself.

If you play your own instrument, you can try the Nordoff-Robbins technique and create your own music; However, this usually involves drums. You are normally accompanied by another musician, such as your therapist, but you can adapt this to suit your own needs.

Once you have chosen your technique, you need to have pens and paper ready for writing or drawing and ideally try and do this during the day to avoid annoying your neighbours with your loud music and singing or shouting. Throw yourself into this as part of your weekly therapy session to release emotion and manifest it onto the paper or into the ether with your vocalisations.

Understanding what is music therapy will require you to research further in the areas; as I said, I am not an expert and will be learning too. The main thing is to be able to express yourself and increase your mood from depression and anxiety. Personally, I will have to be careful with this as I have bipolar disorder, which could lift me too high and cause a hypomanic episode. Still, if you do not have bipolar, it should be easier to get those endorphins released.

I hope this has introduced you to the benefit of music therapy, and if you have tried it or are considering leaving a comment below, I would love to read your thoughts on it.

Peace & Blessings


i'm not a doctor

Lou Farrell

Welcome to the mental health blog of Lou Farrell. I am a writer and copywriter who pens all manner of articles relating to mental wellness and mental illness. I write about my own experiences and the knowledge I have gained over the years as someone who has bipolar disorder. I hope you enjoy the website :-)

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4 Responses

  1. I knew music was a great way to sort through feelings and such as I love to listening to different genres when I need some self care time or I’m feeling a certain way but I had no idea about music therapy! Thank you for sharing such an in depth post. I’d love to take up guitar again, especially now after reading through this, I do always sing along though and I find that quite therapeutic in itself.

  2. Using music as therapy is an intriguing and intuitive idea. I’ll need to assemble a few playlists while I research this further. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Kelly Diane says:

    The benefits of music are often forgotten but it can be used in so many different ways. I’m so pleased you’ve found music therapy and I hope it really helps you.

  4. Lou, you opened a new world – I need to look into music therapy for sure! Hopefully somewhere here in London it’s actually a thing! x

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