Music Therapy

Most everyone enjoys listening to music. Some of us play music as well. Music has a therapeutic effect and can be used to enhance or even change how we feel. According to the American Music Therapy Association: Music Therapy is an established health profession in which music is used within a therapeutic relationship to address physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs of individuals. After assessing the strengths and needs of each client, the qualified music therapist provides the indicated treatment including creating, singing, moving to, and/or listening to music. Through musical involvement in the therapeutic context, clients’ abilities are strengthened and transferred to other areas of their lives. Music therapy also provides avenues for communication that can be helpful to those who find it difficult to express themselves in words. Research in music therapy supports its effectiveness in many areas such as: overall physical rehabilitation and facilitating movement, increasing people’s motivation to become engaged in their treatment, providing emotional support for clients and their families, and providing an outlet for expression of feelings.msclip-067.jpg

As a Creative Arts Therapist I use music to support individuals and groups when they are engaged in a therapeutic process. Whether it’s movement, art or guided meditation the music enhances focus for the participants. I often hear people report that the music helped them to get in touch with feelings and/or explore them on a deeper level.

Self-Affirmation Improves Problem-Solving

It’s no secret that stress increases your susceptibility to health problems, and it also impacts your ability to solve problems and be creative. But methods to prevent associated risks and effects have been less clear – until now.feelings-30.jpg

Published in PLOS ONE, new research from Carnegie Mellon University provides the first evidence that self-affirmation can protect against the damaging effects of stress on problem-solving performance. Understanding that self-affirmation – the process of identifying and focusing on one’s most important values – boosts stressed individuals’ problem-solving abilities will help guide future research and the development of educational interventions.

“An emerging set of published studies suggest that a brief self-affirmation activity at the beginning of a school term can boost academic grade-point averages in underperforming kids at the end of the semester. This new work suggests a mechanism for these studies, showing self-affirmation effects on actual problem-solving performance under pressure,” said J. David Creswell, assistant professor of psychology in CMU’s Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences.

Because previous research indicated that self-affirmation may be an effective stress management approach, Creswell and his research team had college students rank-order a set of values (e.g., art, business, family and friends) in terms of their personal importance, and indicate their levels of chronic stress. Participants randomly assigned to a self-affirmation condition were asked to write a couple of sentences about why their number one ranked value was important (a standard self-affirmation exercise). All participants then had to complete a challenging problem-solving task under time pressure, which required creativity in order to generate correct solutions.

feelings-54.jpgThe results showed that participants who were under high levels of chronic stress during the past month had impaired problem-solving performance. In fact, they solved about 50 percent fewer problems in the task. But notably, this effect was qualified by whether participants had an opportunity to first complete the self-affirmation activity. Specifically, a brief self-affirmation was effective in eliminating the deleterious effects of chronic stress on problem-solving performance, such that chronically stressed self-affirmed participants performed under pressure at the same level as participants with low chronic stress levels.

“People under high stress can foster better problem-solving simply by taking a moment beforehand to think about something that is important to them,” Creswell said. “It’s an easy-to-use and portable strategy you can roll out before you enter that high pressure performance situation.

Art and Asthma

The fear and anxiety associated with an asthma attack can last long after the attack has subsided. Now research, published online in the Journal of Allergy & Clinical Immunology, reports that the art therapy showed benefits both during the therapy and for months afterward. “Asthma impacts not only a child’s physical well-being but also has a considerable effect on a child’s quality of life and psychological development,” said Anya Beebe, MA, an art therapist at National Jewish Health. “Our study shows that art therapy for children with severe, chronic asthma is clearly beneficial. Our results were striking and persisted for months after treatment stopped.”feelings-33.jpg

In art therapy, patients create artwork that helps express their feelings about an illness, a trauma or medical concerns. The artwork can then serve as a starting point for discussions about these issues. Researchers believe that creating art helps participants establish distance between themselves and their medical concerns. They learn to understand that they have a personal identity outside of their illness. It is believed to be particularly effective with children because they often do not have the adult capabilities to verbally articulate their emotions, perceptions, or beliefs, and often can more comfortably convey ideas in ways other than talking.

You can read more at the National Jewish Health website.