Why music therapy might be exactly what you need for anxiety

Listening to music is a common way to de-stress. Perhaps you listen to soothing songs to calm your nerves, or maybe you choose to let your anger out by headbanging to a rage-y jam. (Hey, whatever works.)

Music is such a useful therapeutic tool that there’s actually a dedicated genre — music therapy for anxiety. Multiple studies show that certain types of music can actually reduce stress, anxiety, and anger.

As goes with any mental health treatment, music therapy isn’t for everyone, but it’s certainly worth a try! Let’s discuss the effects of music therapy on anxiety, how you can tell if it’s working for you, and where to find this type of treatment.

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What is music therapy?

According to the American Music Therapy Association, this form of therapy uses clinical and evidence-based music interventions. It takes a lot more than talent to be a bonafide music therapist, though, no matter how great you are at playing or singing a tune. In order to practice, these therapists need to get their degrees and pass a national examination by the Certification Board for Music Therapists.

Music therapy, like any type of counseling session, will look different for everyone. A therapist will base it on your goals, physical health, emotional wellbeing, cognitive skills, and interests, among other factors, either in a one-on-one session or with a group. This may involve listening to music, composing a song, drumming, singing, or engaging with music in countless other ways. Afterward, take the time to discuss how the music made you feel and reflect upon whether the tune conjured any strong thoughts or memories. Don’t worry if you’re not musically inclined — it’s not a prerequisite.

The effects of music therapy

Music therapy has many benefits, and there is scientific evidence that it can help alleviate anxiety and other concerns often associated with the condition. This kind of mental help can also lower blood pressure, enhance memory, improve communication and social skills, relieve muscle tension, and help you self-reflect on your thoughts and emotions.

This type of therapy works so well for a variety of reasons. A song may conjure up a positive memory, and different lyrics may open the door for you to speak about a difficult topic that you might not have had the words for previously. Additionally, the rhythmic and repetitive aspects of music engage the brain’s neocortex to provide stress relief. Last, songwriting gives you a chance to process your thoughts, ambitions, and stresses in a more creative and positive manner.

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How you’ll know if music therapy is helping

Music therapy has a proven track record of success, but it’s still up to you to evaluate whether it works for you personally. Here are a few things to consider:

  • Does your therapist “get” you? Do you feel like you are on the same page and working toward the same goals regarding what you’d like to accomplish?
  • Do you frequently wonder if some other form of therapy, such as talk therapy, might work better?
  • Do you feel like you’re getting something out of every session? Some sessions will be more positive than others. You may discuss difficult topics in some, and, because recovery isn’t linear, you may find yourself taking a step backward at times. However, every session should provide some type of benefit, even if it’s simply acknowledging that your progress is stagnating for a brief period.
  • Is your therapist accessible? Do they have appointments available when you need them? How do they handle off-hour issues, and does that work for you?

Where to find music therapy for anxiety

Music therapy is common in hospitals, schools, nursing homes, outpatient clinics, and mental health centers. If you’re interested in finding a therapist near you, American Music Therapy Association has resources to help you find one. Feel free to also reach out to your insurance company, primary care physician, family, and friends for a referral.

Music therapists provide services that can help alleviate various issues, including but not limited to depression and anxiety. By engaging in active self-reflection and creativity, you can explore new ways to express emotions or address challenging topics. Therapy is never a one-size-fits-all, so if you don’t feel like you’re connecting with your therapist or feel you may benefit from another type of therapy, there’s nothing wrong with switching gears.

BlissMark provides information regarding health, wellness, and beauty. The information within this article is not intended to be medical advice. Before starting any diet or exercise routine, consult your physician. If you don’t have a primary care physician, the United States Health & Human Services department has a free online tool that can help you locate a clinic in your area. We are not medical professionals, have not verified or vetted any programs, and in no way intend our content to be anything more than informative and inspiring.

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