Music Therapy A form of complementary medicine - part 1

by - Dr. T V Sairam

Music therapy is based on the associative and cognitive powers of the mind. It is one of the expressive therapies which are of late interpreted as a complementary or integrative medicine. The system holds promise in treating the patients in a faster as well as an effective way, when combined with other interventions such as medication, surgery or rest.

Applied usually by a qualified or recognized practitioner or at times by the patients themselves, music therapy is the prescribed clinical use of music with or without a therapeutic goal, which aims at stimulating an over-all positive changes mainly in four areas of human functioning viz., cognitive, physical, psychological and social. Music therapy is as creative and flexible as music could be. It is a spontaneous means of using the appeal of music to help people of all ages and all abilities.

Kenneth Bruscia (1989) defined music therapy as "a systematic process of intervention wherein the therapist helps the client to achieve health, using musical experiences and the relationships that develop through them as dynamic forces of change". In doing so he identified three essential elements - a systematic intervention, a therapeutic relationship and a musical experience.

Music therapy is based on an understanding that the ability to express or experience oneself through music is a birth right of every individual in the society. There are areas where people are not able to express themselves to others. Tyranny, social and economic status or hierarchy, fear of the powerful, feelings of shame are some of the few social reasons as to why the expression is gagged in the social milieu and which snowballs – over the years to affect the mental as well as physical well-being of an individual.

It is here music plays a vital role: it lends endless avenues for the flow of suppressed feelings of disappointments, helplessness or frustrations in one's life.

It is heartening to note that this outlet almost remains unimpaired even in the case of accident, disability, injury or illness. There is no exclusiveness about therapeutic music as all sorts of music have shown this ability: be it modern or traditional. Even the people who are in the last leg of their journey – as for examples, the inmates of hospices - can derive noticeable relief either by listening to or sounding their agony through music. There is no bar in imagining that their final destination will be all beauty and pleasant feelings as sounded in the music sample!

What music assures is certain contentment and confidence which are the basic needs for a happy living.

We have seen that music therapy is a form of complementary medicine. What is complementary medicine? In recent years, the term 'complementary medicine' has come to refer to a strategy of healing interventions, which can be used not as a stand-alone method but in addition to the mainstream (or conventional) medical practices. Thus complementary therapy methods – which includes music therapy- gets integrated into the very structure of the mainstream medical care. This has paved way for the emergence of yet another term 'integrated medicine, which refers to a fusion of systems in which mainstream medical care and complementary therapies get integrated together within a practice or an institution.

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Dr T V Sairam, is from F/48B, Hari Nagar New Delhi 110064
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