What is Therapeutic Music?

“Music initiates brainstem responses that regulate heart rate, pulse, blood pressure, body temperature, skin conductance and muscle tension… It is also being used to help people manage pain, anxiety, stress and a surprisingly wide range of other issues.”Daniel Levitin, Cognitive Psychologist and Neuroscientist¹

For many of us, listening to music contributes to our wellbeing. As Levitin notes, music can bring about physiological changes that have a positive effect on our body and mind. Music also soothes, relaxes and uplifts us emotionally and spiritually, restoring us to harmony and equanimity.

How is it that music can affect us so deeply? As Stella Benson, Founder of the International Healing Musicians Program, says: “Each musician has the propensity towards using music as a healing modality by tapping into his or her own natural compassion, passion and pure love for fellow human beings.”² Certified Healthcare Musicians – also known as Therapeutic Musicians – have taken this further still and undergone training in the art of using music as an intentional tool of transformation.

Music As Service

“The music always centres me. It makes me feel less anxious, depressed and worried. It’s almost a spiritual experience and certainly very comforting.” Therapeutic Music Patient³

Therapeutic Music is not intended as entertainment. Rather, it is offered as a service. A Therapeutic Musician tunes in to the needs of the patient, client or audience and then plays whatever is needed to produce a beneficial change in their physical, emotional, mental or spiritual state. This is why live music is more effective than recorded music, for the musician can respond instantaneously to the needs of the listener by changing rhythm, tempo, key, mood, volume, instrument or switching between familiar and non-familiar music. For this reason, Therapeutic Music is considered to be non-intrusive and non-invasive as the needs of the listener are always central.

Instruments for Therapeutic Music are generally chosen because they are gentle and soothing. The most popular Therapeutic instrument is the harp. Other instruments include acoustic guitar, Native American Flutes, dulcimers, zithers and the voice.


Music for Individuals

Many Therapeutic Musicians play for individuals in hospitals, care homes, hospices and other clinical settings. Others work in their own studios, or visit clients in their own homes.

Background Music for Groups

Improvised music on the harp creates a peaceful and meditative ambiance for healing sessions, meditation groups and yoga classes. In these settings, the music is soft and quiet, lovingly supporting and deepening the purpose of the group without drawing attention to itself.

Background Music for Establishments

Gentle background music can provide solace and comfort to visitors and staff. Any environment that can trigger stress, confusion or anxiety can benefit from the distracting and calming influence of Therapeutic Music played on the harp. This includes hospitals, hospices, clinics, surgeries, diagnostic centres, drop-in and advice centres, shelters, support groups, police stations, prisons, law courts, etc.

Musical Offerings for Care Homes

A light-hearted sing-a-long and well-known tunes played gently can create a cheering and reassuring atmosphere in care homes. These sessions can be especially beneficial for Dementia patients, who respond well to old familiar melodies which connect and anchor them to memories from their past.

Tailored Musical Offerings

Depending on the needs of the group, sessions can also include other elements such as poetry, storytelling, movement and guided meditation.

If you would be interested in Therapeutic Music for yourself or for a group or establishment that you represent, please contact me to discuss how I might help you.

¹ Levitin, Daniel This Is Your Brain on Music: Understanding a Human Obsession, 2008
² Benson, Stella The Healer’s Way Companion 2: Calming Music for Anxiety, 20014, page 12
³Therapeutic Music Patient Quoted in Roberts, Peter and Cox, Helen The Harp and the Ferryman, 2013, loc 778