Music therapy provides perfect pitch for wellness

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Using the power of music to get better, both mentally and physically, and live well can pay rich dividends, writes Rashmi Ramesh
A nine-year-old, who’d never uttered a word all his life, spoke for the first time during a music session. His first word was “open”. Diagnosed with autism, the boy had been non-verbal until then. The development came as a pleasant surprise to Purvaa Sampath-currently India’s only CBMT (Certification Board for Music Therapists)-certified music therapist and neurologic music therapistwho was an intern at the time.
“With that boy, my supervisor and I had developed a song where he would knock on the drum when we prompted him to. I was leading the session and began the song. When I got to the part about knocking, the song went ‘Who’s that knocking on the door?’ and instead of just knocking on the drum, he looked straight at me and said the word ‘open’. That was the first time he’d ever said a word and it was a huge moment for me, my supervisor, his teacher as well as his family. And this word came after months of music therapy,” Sampath said.
With music therapy, consistency, patience and practice are key, according to her.
Akanksha Pandey, consultant clinical psychologist at Fortis Hospital in Bengaluru, said music is an expressive therapeutic tool that helps people improve their physical and mental health – it relaxes the mind and has a functional effect on the brain.
“The therapeutic role of music has been recognised since ancient times, through texts such as Raga Chikitsa, and has the support of current research as well, which talks about the physiological benefits of music on the immune system, the benefits of music for relaxation and stress management, the application of music to improve memory and attention, as well as music-induced longterm changes in the behaviour of depressed elderly people,” Pandey said.
“Music therapy, as a model, was initially designed for psychiatric patients to help them channel their pent-up and conflicting emotions. But with some modifications, it is now also used to address anxiety, sleep disturbance, and improve one’s ability to identify and communicate needs, thoughts and feelings in a productive manner,” she said.
Dr Sahil Kohli, consultant (neurology) at Gurugrambased Narayana Super Speciality Hospital, said there’s evidence that music has a calming influence on the body and mind, as it produces endorphins – natural painkillers usually produced during a happy state of mind – thus, lowering stress and anxiety, and promoting relaxation by reducing muscle tension. “Young people with anxiety issues can focus better, avoid distraction and negative thoughts, and increase productivity,” said Kohli.
(To be continued)

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