The idea of music therapy has been around since the time of Aristotle and Plato. The first written record of music therapy as a profession was in the early 1900’s, when musicians performed for veterans that suffered from physical and emotional pain after the world wars. Many doctors and nurses witnessed changes in the attitudes and the overall condition of patients.
In recent times, Music & Memory is a program that has implemented music therapy as treatment for patients. The nonprofit organization was started in 2010, when the founder, Dan Cohen, passed out 200 iPods to New York nursing home residents to test whether music in the iPods would become a part of the patients’ memory. Not only has he seen success in improving patients’ memories, but he has also seen, according to Cohen in an interview with JSR, “the reduction of antipsychotic and anti-anxiety medication, reduction of pain medication, improved function in the person with dementia…” and so on.
This organization started as a small-scale project and is currently operating in “more than 2,000 nursing homes hospices, hospitals, and home-care programs across all 50 states and eight other countries,” says Cohen.
Seeing the beneficial effects of music therapy, Deb Jacoby, an observer at Rocky Knoll Health Care Center, says in a testimonial for Music & Memory, “families are excited about how some of their loved ones are more engaged in conversation, in better mood, and actually awake and more engaged throughout the day.”
There has been a growing number of musical therapists as more research is conducted on the relationship between music and neurological responses. Music & Memory and other programs at hospices and hospitals have used music to treat patients as well as train others to provide music therapy.
Since the discovery of the effect of music, music therapy has become a college major and an occupation. Music therapists perform in many different settings, such as day-care centers, hospices, rehabilitation centers and hospitals, for a wide variety of patients. Music therapy has been observed to release hormones, increase concentration, and change heart rates. Music is a way for the patients to interact with emotions, connect with the volunteers, and experience less pain during their treatment.