Music has been used to treat health problems as early as the beginning of time. Only since the beginning of the 20th century music has been used to treat different psychological problems. The official term of music therapy was given during World War II for soldiers who experienced shocked after battle. Not much longer, in 1971 the American Association for Music Therapy was formed. One of the many uses for music therapy is stress management. Throughout the course of a day people experience many stressors, school, work and family, just to name a few.
Music has a unique ability to lower levels of anxiety and tension when listened to under the proper conditions. There are many correlations between the types of music listened to and the amount of decreased stress. To explain how some music lowers levels of stress and others don’t, one should know how sound is processed through the brain. The auditory system controls how people physiological and behavioral react to sound. Sound moves from the inner ear to the auditory cortex directly. Then sound moves to the temporal lobes where it is consciously perceived. Depending on the type of music will determine the response.
As said by Westman, “The arousal level of the central nervous system depends upon the intensity, complexity, variability, predictability and meaning of sound stimuli. The auditory system responds most to changes in timing of sound stimuli” (Westman 293). Different rhythms and other musical characteristics will determine how one reacts to the given piece. When conducting a study Krusmhansl played three pieces, each picked to represent the emotions of sadness, fear, and happiness for a group of people. As he said “The sad excerpt had slow tempos, minor harmonies, and fairly constant ranges of pitch and dynamics.
The fear excerpt had rapid tempos, dissonant harmonies, and large variations of dynamics and pitch. The happy excerpts had rapid tempos, dancelike rhythms, major harmonies and constant range of pitch and dynamics. ” (Krusmhansl 46) His findings concluded that the ratings for the intended emotions tested, were significantly higher than ratings for unintended ones. The different characteristics such as tempo or key, of the songs determined what emotion it received. This proves music has an emotional meaning behind it. When Music is properly used it can change the emotions of one.
An example of this would be a study done by Elise Labbe. She hypothesized that individuals who are exposed to relaxing music or self-selected music would demonstrate lowers levels of anxiety and increase levels of relaxation compared to sitting in silence or heavy metal music after experiencing a stressful test. Self-selected music is given so the individual gas some control over the experiment. As Labbe said, “Health psychology research indicates perceived control is an important factor in reducing the stress response. ” (Labbe 163). The results of the study supported her hypothesis.
She measured heart rate, skin conductance, respiration, and anxiety. The people who listened to relaxing music or self-selected demonstrated changes in four of the five categories. The people who sat in silence demonstrated changes in two of the five categories. The people who listened to heavy metal music demonstrated one change out of the five categories. This agree with Westman’s comments, the heavy metal music is more intense, complex, and less predictive which will arouse the central nervous system. More arousal will lead to less relaxation.
By listening to soothing music individuals experience a reduction in negative emotions and increase positive emotions. The two reasons uses for music therapy in stress management are anxiety and anxiety-provoking clinical situations, from test taking to medical procedures. Dr. Woolfolk, a leading researcher in field of music therapy for stress management, has used music to treat many forms of anxiety. When dealing with test anxiety he said “Various types of music may reduce physiological symptoms of anxiety and significantly increase exam scores in college students” (Woolfolk 417).
He did not measure the arousal of the central nervous system like the other mentioned. Instead he believed in the cognitive response given to him by the subjects. When music is used for patients who are chronically ill or in the intensive care unit there mood improves and comfort increases. When cancer patients were tested they showed positive changes in mood and less physical discomfort. Music has also been found to help with the stresses of pregnancy. A study with adolescents showed a less state of anxiety in the third trimester versus the control.
The most interesting find is the use to music during surgery. As Dr. Woolfolk said, “Music has been found to reduce the stress hormone levels during surgery. Also when given anesthesia while listening, music reduces struggling, delirium, and vomiting. ” (Woolfolk 420) I cannot explain how these physical side effects were eliminated and have found no further information to prove this theory valid. The most effect way for treat stress using music is through music-based individualized relaxation training. As Dr. Woolfok says, “the goal is to move the client from respondent procedures to operant procedures so that relaxation skills can be performed independently” (Woolfolk 427). This method is broken down into four levels. The first level is preparing the body for relaxation by lying still with the eyes closed. The second level teaches breath control with instructions given by the therapist through chants. In this level music can be modified to better suit the client’s needs. In the third level music is gradually faded out and replaced with voice commands. As we can see the music is acting like a brace during the earlier stages. Dr.
Woolfok describes the goal of this level by saying, “Criterion for this level is the achievement of both relaxation skills in response to verbal instruction and an increasingly relaxed physicological state in response to the relaxation procedures” (Woolfolk 428). The final level is applying the relaxation techniques to everyday stressors. This method is complex but facilities the greatest results making it the most sought after. One of the main benefits of using music therapy as a treatment is the lack of negative side effects. Most researchers agree the only negative effect experienced was a lack for the desired response.
This can happen more frequently when not using a trained and licensed music therapist. A trained therapist will chose the music depending on patient. Dr. Woolfolk says, “It cannot be assumed that on particular piece or genre of music is universally effective with patients; rather, music can only be selected for therapeutic use following individuals assessment process with direct input from the client. ” (Woolfolk 424) It is possible that music can be used successfully one time and not the other. This happens because the relaxed state of the patient minimizes his or her defense and allows psychological issues to reappear.
Unlocking these reactions may help face ones fears but since the goal is to lower stress this is counterproductive. Music has been used to treat physical and physiological problems even before the middle ages. The ability for music to change emotions in one is remarkable and should be looked into more frequently considering the lack of side effects. From college students in Labee studies using music to lower stress after taking a test to using music to make cancer patients feel better about a losing struggle, music has positive benefits on the individual.