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Music therapy is not a new idea, of course, and is likely one of the oldest forms of mental health treatment in the world. Yet it still remains one of the more innovative treatment methods for mental disorders.
The most common form of music therapy is the use of music to sooth and relax. While the type of music may vary somewhat, the overall tone of the music will be slow and relaxing. For many patients and even those just looking to relieve stress, this is the most powerful form of self-therapy they possess.
Another option is to use music that is more personalized to the patient. Often this will be music from their past that elicits fond memories of happy times, such as a wedding, a fun concert, or another happy moment. Quite often this is holiday music, which reminds of family and friends and gatherings in good times.
A very new option is to use music festivals as both a gathering point for sort of ad hoc group therapy through the use of music. Groups of patients and caregivers gather to listen to music, often by live performers and often as part of a larger music festival or event. The community aspect of these festivals often has a healing tone for those involved that works over and above the music itself.
The debate over how music interacts with people is continual, but the effects are well-understood. Although we may not know whether the musical connection we feel is physical (sounds on eardrums prompting emotions and memories) or metaphysical (the music changes our mind paths through fundamental spiritual connections), we do know that it can be very positive.
Therapists also know that while music has beneficial properties for those suffering from depression, bipolar disorder, and other mental illnesses, its effects are not nearly as beneficial as are strong relationships and interpersonal connections. To this end, the new idea of incorporating festivals into the music therapy can add that component to the mix.
Researchers at institutions like the Santa Monica College, Southern Methodist University, and others are delving into the potential affects of music therapy combined with group therapy in both controlled situations (traditional group therapy sessions with music included) and less controlled situations (public festivals). The results so far, while preliminary, are good.
Although it may be years before group music therapy through festivals and events is accepted as a treatment method, music therapy itself is a well-established and often-used option for many types of mental illness.
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