Whether Mozart or Metallica, music can ease your pain

By Jiali Fan

Music therapy as a new auxiliary treatment goes mainstream in hospitals and nursing homes, said Melbourne music therapists.

Dr Grace Thompson, the National President of Australian Music Therapy Association said that music has the power to help recovery from surgery and other medical procedures.

Music therapist who can provide clinical music therapy services to children, elderly people, disabilities aims to use the experience of music to aid the patient in attaining, maintaining, or regaining optimum levels of functioning or adaptation in all areas of health and development.

Music Therapy infographic

“While music therapy is not a new thing … it is increasingly accepted in mainstream medicine as a credible allied health profession in the last few years,” Dr Thompson said.

“Now we have over 500 members in Australia, and most report they have as much work as they want to have,” she said.

Dr Libby Flynn, who as a registered music therapist worked for eight years in Australia said her career is built upon bringing happiness and enjoyment in people’s lives and that is very satisfying.

“With different patients, I suggest creating different playlists,” she said.

“And if it’s a song that is close to them, maybe a football theme song or a favorite song, they’re more likely to be able to rhyme to, which can be very validating and motivates them to continue with the program,” Dr Flynn said.

Listening to music can activate many parts of the brain and it can serve many different functions.

“For example, with neurological patients, even though they often can’t speak they can often still sing and song lyrics are stored differently to other kinds of language,” Dr Flynn said.

Music therapy currently as a new Master subject qualified by two universities in Australia including University of Melbourne and University of Western Sydney.

Dr Alison Short, a music therapist practitioner and academic senior lecturer from University of Western Sydney said that they offer a thorough study of the theory, practice and research of music therapy.

Although music therapists say the sessions are often successful, they can go awry, for example if the music is over-stimulating or brings back painful memories.

But the registered music therapists “are pretty well trained to know what is going on if there is a sudden change in mood or something,” Dr Short said.