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History of Music Therapy


Music has been a part of every culture since the beginning of time. Early musical forms included chanting, praying, drumming, incantations, and mantras. The evolution of music as a therapy was based on the healing practices of many cultures.

Music therapy can be traced back to the ancient civilizations of the Egyptians, Chinese, Indians, Greeks, and Romans, as far back as 1500 BC. Evidence of its use can be found in biblical, literary, and historical writings. Music is often described as the oldest art form used in healing.

Apollo, a well-known Greek god was referred to not only as the god of medicine but also as the god of music. In addition, Plato claimed that various musical "moods" or scales might successfully be prescribed for relaxation. It has also been reported that Alexander the Great's sanity was restored by music therapy.

The use of music was prominent during the Renaissance and Middle Ages. In the 1900's, many reform movements occurred, leading to the formation of the National Association for Music Therapy in the United States in 1950 and later, in 1958, the British Society for Music Therapy in the United Kingdom.

After the World Wars, music therapy was used in Veterans Administration Hospitals in the United States for veterans suffering from emotional and physical trauma from the wars. The recognition of the psychological, cognitive, physiological, social, and emotional benefits of music therapy by the physicians and nurses at the VA hospitals marked the true beginning of the use of music as a holistic therapy in the United States.

Today, almost all developed and some developing nations have formed their own music organizations. In the UK, for example, the Association of Professional Music Therapists was developed in 1976 from the British Society for Music Therapists; this organization has played a major role in establishing state registrations of music therapists in the United States, UK, Canada, Australia, Germany, and Scandinavia. The Association of Professional Music Therapists has also created a database of registered therapists, which is increasing worldwide.

Although music therapy was first introduced in the United States in the 1940s, it was not until 1998 that the American Music Therapy Association was formally founded as a union of the national Association for Music Therapy (AMTA) . According to the AMTA, music therapy is the progressive development of the therapeutic use of music in rehabilitation, special education, and community settings.

By using music therapy to treat psychiatric disorders, the health care industry recognized its therapeutic possibilities. Music educators such as E. Thayer Gaston and many trained physicians played vital roles in the development of music therapy in the United States. Gaston started the first training and graduate program for music therapy in the United States. Many musicians have since composed and recorded stress-reducing musical scores that are used as alternative and supportive healing modalities.

In nursing, music started being used as a therapeutic intervention in the days of Florence Nightingale, who has been referred to as a "pioneer" of music therapy. Documentation of Nightingale's use of music therapy appears in the Florence Nightingale Museum in London and in her book, Notes on Nursing. Nightingale an her nurses used music therapy and musical instruments during the Crimean War to assist with the physical, social, spiritual, and emotional healing of sick and wounded soldiers. Specifically, they used voice and flute melodies for pain management and to soothe, calm, and comfort. Nightingale thought of music as an "auditory modality" that nurses could use to control the environment.

Today, nurses are increasingly recognizing, teaching, and using music therapy in practice and in the art of holistic nursing. Many health care professionals now use music tapes for their own relaxation as well as an adjunct for patient care.

Source: Holistic and Complementary Therapies

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