Music Therapy

Music Therapy

“Music has been recognized as a powerful medium that affects human health.”

— Mariah Snyder and Linda Chlan, “Music Therapy,” In Annual Review of Nursing Research, vol. 17, 1999; Fitzpatrick JJ. Ed. p.3

Music therapy refers to the “controlled use of music, its elements and their influences on the human being to aid in the physiologic, psychologic and emotional integration of the individual during the treatment of an illness or disability” [1].  Music therapy can involve a variety of musical experiences such as free improvisation, singing, songwriting, listening to and discussing music, and moving to music in order to improve or maintain health [2].

Studies have shown music therapy to be effective in reducing anxiety and stress, promoting relaxation, managing pain, decreasing aggressiveness and agitation, improving cognitive and behavioral function, providing an outlet for expression of feelings, improving mood, promoting physical rehabilitation, facilitating movement, and enhancing the body’s immune response [3, 4].

The benefits of music therapy are broad and widespread.  Studies have shown positive outcomes across a range of populations from coronary care patients and persons with dementia to students and premature infants [4].  For example, Snyder and Chlan (1999) report in their review of the music therapy literature that “strong evidence exists for music therapy’s effectiveness in decreasing state anxiety in patients in coronary care units and for patients undergoing a variety of surgical procedures” (p.5).  Some studies show that individuals who listen to carefully selected music either before or after a medical procedure or stress-induced situation show a reduction in anxiety and stress, and improved relaxation [4].  Benefits of music also extended to reducing pain in patients that either listened to music or viewed music videos as part of medical treatment [4].

Synder and Chlan’s review also found that music improved performance in a variety of areas (including exercise and cognitive functioning), reduced aggressive behaviors in people with dementia and mental illness, and improved mood.  There is even evidence to suggest that music has positive effects on immunological variables such as cortisol levels (a hormone that is released in times of stress and suppresses immune function) [4].

In terms of premature infants, music has been shown to reduce stress; lower heart rate, resting energy expenditure, and salivary cortisol; and increase oxygen saturation, feeding rate, non-nutritive sucking, and weight gain [5, 6].  This, in turn, improves the health of pre-term infants and helps to shorten their hospital stay [6].

While music therapy employs a number of techniques to address a host of conditions, the Nature Mix DVD seeks to tap into the benefits that are realized from simply listening to music.  These musical benefits, combined with the benefits of viewing fractals (see Fractal and Health page), could potentially be mutually reinforcing and create a synergistic effect to further improve health and well-being.



[1] Munro S. and Mount B. Music Therapy in Palliative Care. Canadian Medical Association Journal. 1978; 119: 1029-1034.

[2] Wikipedia – Music therapy page:, accessed December 2, 2012.

[3] Coast Music Therapy website:, accessed December 2, 2012.

[4] Snyder M. and Chlan L.  Music Therapy. In: Annual Review of Nursing Research, Vol. 17, 1999: Focus on Complementary Health and Pain Management. Ed.: Fitzpatrick JJ.  1999; pp.3-25.

[5] Lubetzky R. et al. Effect of Music by Mozart on Energy Expenditure in Growing Preterm Infants. Pediatrics. 2010; 125(1):e24-e28.

[6] Standley JM. A meta-analysis of the efficacy of music therapy for premature infants. Journal of Pediatric Nursing. 2002; 17(2):107-113.

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