We all know that music is a beautiful art form that helps listeners feel peace, motivation, and connection. Nearly everyone has that song that they put on to cheer them up after a bad day. It’s a constant resource for positivity in life.
This, of course, is nothing new. College students listen to music in order to stay productive and feel less stressed, in addition to using other study and focus tools. Many of us remember those “music saves lives” buttons that people would wear when we were teenagers, or how non-profit organizations like To Write Love On Her Arms impacted teenagers in the music scene dealing with depression by publicly highlighting the connection between music and mental health.
But did you know that these qualities of music are quantifiable? Negative sleep patterns, eating disorders, and unhealthy blood pressure levels are all being treated with music therapy nowadays. Some music has even been recorded specifically for healing purposes. If you’re interested in taking your career in music to a whole new level, read on!
The Healing Power of Music
The history of what we currently know as music therapy goes back to the end of World War II. Hospitals started hiring musicians because they noticed it was helping the mood of wounded soldiers, and soon colleges latched on and started building programs around this concept. While music was used therapeutically on a whim originally, we’re now finding that it’s a valid form of treatment.
It’s been proven through several studies that music can affect one’s mood for the better or worse. This may have to do with how our brain creates links between our senses and stimuli, causing us to react to internal changes. This link has led to music being used in the recovery of lost memories as well.
The study of music’s effect on the brain has led to its further clinical use. A great example of this is how music has been useful for treating addiction and stress relief due to its proven effects on cognitive functioning. Additionally, music therapy has been shown to have a positive impact on people with autism. Music stimulates both hemispheres of the brain, increasing cognitive thinking. Because of this, music can be conducive to an effective learning environment.
Because of these findings and applications, music therapy is increasing in popularity.
In the medical field, music has already shown itself to be useful in oddly specific ways. For instance, we’ve found that the BPM of the Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive” is perfect for hands-only CPR. So when people say “songs save lives,” they really mean it.
Of course, these examples are a bit different than what actual music therapy has become. Sound healing therapy often involves the same kind of thing you may do at a show: singing along, moving to the beat, or even just playing music. It can also involve pure listening and meditation while music is on. What we see in actual sound healing is a cross between experiential and quantifiable.
So have no misconception: Music therapy is a valid profession. Official music therapists work with a variety of clients and typically make around $50K a year. More education is really the only way to advance, however, and since it’s still not a completely fleshed-out profession, you may not actually make that $50K annually. Music therapists’ salaries can range from $20K a year to $135K, and while most people make a good medium, you risk barely making enough to live on.
First of all, being a musician and a music therapist are two completely different things. Even if you went to college for music, therapy doesn’t have much to do with music theory or even playing an instrument. Transitioning from being a musician to being a music therapist is a change in vocation and different fields of study.
Now, that’s not to say that knowledge of music will not help in music therapy. Of course, having an internal catalog and knowledge of songs that could help a person is useful — as long as your decisions are founded on evidence-based practices. While it may be instrumental (pun intended) to know about music from a personal standpoint, musical therapy is, at the end of the day, professional therapy.
Thankfully the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA) has outlined how to become a music therapist in their brochure for those of us interested. Keep in mind that it does require schooling, training, and meeting the requirements of the AMTA, which works with schools to establish proper guidelines to this education. If you love music and would like to work with it as a therapist, then they would be a good resource to start with.
Have you worked in music therapy? Do you have any insight you’d like to share? Please leave a note in the comments below.