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Exploring the Benefits of Music Therapy for Adolescents

Exploring the Benefits of Music Therapy for Adolescents

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 16 percent of all adolescents experience issues with their mental health at one time or another. The adolescent years can be trying for many people, especially if they develop anxiety or depression because of experienced trauma or stress. 

In adolescents between the ages of 15 and 19 years old, suicide is the third leading cause of death. Many adolescents with mental health disorders who do get treatment, benefit from it. Recently, music therapy has gained popularity among therapists who treat adolescents for a variety of mental health issues.

What Is Music Therapy?

Music therapy is a tool used as part of an evidence-based therapy treatment plan. Music is used during therapy to improve the patient’s mood and reduce the stress felt by the patient. It can also be used to help a patient productively express their feelings and emotions. 

The patient doesn’t need to have a strong background in music or be especially gifted in music to utilize music therapy. The therapist can utilize music in a variety of ways during a session to engage the adolescent or to help them relax and become more open. 

For some patients, the therapist will use music throughout a session, and for others, the entire session might include music therapy. The hope is to help the adolescent more easily express themselves, and it might be easier for a teen to do so using music or song. 

Different Forms of Music Therapy

Music therapy can take a variety of forms, and the therapist might use a trial-and-error approach to find the right form for the patient. Music therapy facilitators can help participants determine which form of music therapy will best suit their needs and comfort level. 

Some of the most common forms of music therapy include:

  • Singing: The patient might sing along to a song that resonates with them.
  • Playing an instrument: The patient can learn a new instrument or practice one they already know how to play. This helps them express their emotions and thoughts in a healthy way.
  • Discuss lyrics: If the adolescent has a song that means something to them, the therapist might encourage a discussion of the lyrics.
  • Write a song or melody: When the patient is musically inclined, the therapist might engage the patient by getting them to write their lyrics. 
  • Listen to music: The patient or therapist might suggest music to explore the meaning for the patient or help them relax. Simply listening to music can have a powerful emotional impact on the patient. 
  • Dancing and moving to music: This can include a complicated dance move or simply clapping their hands to the rhythm of the song. 

While music therapy can be fun, it’s meant to move the dialogue between the patient and the music therapist forward. Also, it should help the patient develop new and healthier ways to express themselves. 

What Conditions Can Music Therapy Treat?

Music therapy can treat several conditions, and a therapist might try this kind of therapy to see if it can help make the patient more successful in their recovery. Music therapy is generally used along with other treatments for various mental or behavioral health conditions. This form of therapy can be very non-threatening and even fun for adolescent participants. 

The most common conditions that music therapy treats include:

  • Trauma
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Behavioral disorders
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Mood disorders
  • Substance abuse disorders
  • Anxiety disorder
  • Eating disorders

A person’s therapist might suggest using music therapy for conditions that aren’t on this list if they believe that music therapy might be beneficial. For instance, music therapy can help teens with their social skills and social anxiety. If a patient is interested in trying music therapy, they may suggest this as a possibility to their therapist. 

Working closely together, the patient and therapist can diagnose the condition and decide to use music therapy. The goal of music therapy may depend on the person’s disorder and their willingness to participate in this type of therapy. 

Benefits of Music Therapy for Adolescents

Music therapy can benefit adolescents in a myriad of ways. This therapy can benefit the patient emotionally, physically, socially, and more. Adolescents are able to participate in the therapeutic process in a way that is not intimidating while also receiving some key benefits. Studies have shown numerous benefits to practicing music therapy as a part of a comprehensive treatment plan. 

Here are some benefits to consider:

  • Brings up suppressed memories and feeling so they can be dealt with
  • Mood improvement
  • Lessening of depression symptoms
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Reduces pain and muscle tension
  • Decreases heart rate
  • Creates coping skills
  • Provides a sense of control
  • Reduces anxiety and stress
  • Reduces depression
  • Improves social skills
  • Helps the patient learn to express themselves
  • Reduces the patient’s sense of isolation and loneliness

Music has long been regarded as a way to relax, and people who write and play music are considered artists. Music changes from one generation to the next, and in many ways, it’s a reflection of the current times. The positive effect of music can help a patient connect with themselves and help them learn to express their fears, thoughts, and emotions, so treatment can bring healing. 

Implementing Music Therapy

Most people who explore music therapy do so with a therapist that they’re already working with. The patient needs to discuss their expectations for music therapy and set goals that they’d like to reach. The therapist will tailor the music therapy sessions with these goals and possible outcomes in mind.

The therapist might review traumas the patient has had in the past and identify any known triggers for this trauma. Before the music therapy begins, there might be a discussion of musical preference, and if there are any specific songs with personal meaning for the patient. 

On the day of the session, the therapist might ask about the patient’s current emotional well-being and any stress the person is currently experiencing. The key to music therapy and any treatment is open and honest communication between the therapist and the patient. 

Learn More About Music Therapy With MCAW

Music therapy can be an effective tool for helping adolescents that are struggling with mental health issues. The benefits of music therapy can help a teen express their emotions more clearly and calm their racing minds. When performed correctly, music therapy can be an invaluable tool for recovery. 

At the Massachusetts Center for Adolescent Wellness, we work with adolescents struggling with a variety of mental health disorders and can offer music therapy as an option. Our goal is to provide outstanding care and help adolescents to recover with care and compassion. Contact us today to learn more about our services, as well as music therapy in particular.