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The healing power of music

Alan Flurry

Whether soothing, stirring, or inspirational, the power of music touches a boundless soul language in all of us – and probably more than a few animals, as well. Music as therapy in all its connotations logically follows the contours of this language. Music therapy as discipline and practice uses music to address conditions with few other avenues for treatment. The Hugh Hodgson School of Music music therapy program connects the power of music with the ability to carry a tune into better health:

For most of us, music is a source of entertainment, but we often benefit from its therapeutic properties. Music therapists highlight this phenomenon by combining the science of psychology, biology and neuroscience with the healing effects of music to address a patient’s physical and mental health.

Music therapy in practice

Receiving a dementia diagnosis can be incredibly difficult, both for the patient and their families. Jennifer Stull, an assistant professor of music therapy at the University of Georgia, says that as a dementia patient’s health declines, their sense of self also becomes unclear.

“Music is a stimulus that can provide familiarity in the midst of change,” says Stull.

As part of the clinical training portion of the university’s music therapy curriculum, Stull and her students lead music therapy groups with dementia patients. During the sessions, music is used to address various goals related to motor, memory, and social skills. To address these goals, patients may sing along to familiar songs, move to motivating music, and engage in conversation with other group members to become stronger physically and mentally.

“Our goal is not to teach them how to sing or how to play an instrument,” Stull said. “It’s learning how to use music to motivate them to exercise or help them keep their brain active by singing along to songs that they know. It’s asking how we can encourage them to socialize with their loved one. Sometimes listening to music together helps foster those relationships.”

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