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By Gina Gibson, Fraser Occupational Therapist and Pam Dewey • music therapy, therapeutic benefits of therapy, music benefits, music as a therapy tool, pediatric therapy and music, music and mental health, music and depression, music and anxiety, music helps with depression, music helps mental health, music as therapy, music provides calming input • February 04, 2021

Music causes powerful emotional reactions. A song can make you want to dance or cry; some music can be soothing. But music’s influence isn’t just limited to mood. It can also affect your physical health.

According to Verywell Mind, “Studies have shown that music therapy may be helpful for people with depression and anxiety, sleep disorders and even cancer.” Research has found music can help people manage pain when recovering from an injury or surgery. Music also helps with concentration. Surgeons often play music during surgery, and some people find music helps while studying. Research has also shown music helps children’s brains develop, especially in the areas responsible for processing sound, language and memory.

Music is an important part of Fraser’s history, as well.

Music was an early therapy tool at Fraser

Founder Louise Whitbeck Fraser began teaching her daughter Jean, who was hearing impaired. Louise had a Victrola record player that she would play. She began to notice that Jean would move in time to the music on the Victrola. She started teaching Jean with music. By 1935, Louise had started a small school for children with special needs in her Minneapolis home, and a friend brought over a piano for Louise to use when teaching with music.

Louise discovered the power of music early, and Fraser has continued to use music as a therapeutic tool.

Music is a pediatric therapy tool

Fraser Occupational Therapist Gina Gibson says pediatric therapists use music to enhance therapy in many ways. Fraser physical therapists often have children dance along to the rhythm of a song to help develop gross motor skills. Speech therapists ask children to follow directions and label body parts in songs like “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” or say animals’ names in songs like “Old MacDonald Had a Farm.” Occupational therapists might incorporate music to either soothe or stimulate children with sensory sensitivities, as needed.

Music helps with reinforcement

Gibson also says therapists use music to reinforce behaviors. Therapists play music as a break after a child completes a challenging task. Music can also help kids focus during an activity, especially when it’s instrumental or ambient music. Gibson says Fraser therapists often use music to help children transition between activities. They might play a certain song to let children know it’s time to leave the gym and put on their socks and shoes.

Music provides calming input

Music can help people calm down. Perhaps a child just finished a high-energy activity like completing an obstacle course. Before the child can sit down, he or she might need to listen to a calming song, to help their body adjust to the right speed for focusing.

Gibson has seen how calming and powerful music can be for her clients.

“I had a young girl who would become very upset during therapy sessions and didn’t want to interact with any of the toys and other materials. During one session, I handed her a pair of music headphones. She put them on by herself, came and sat in my lap, and laid her head on my shoulder. She was instantly calmed by the music and felt like she could trust me because I gave her the music. This helped us break through a barrier and begin to work toward her goals,” says Gibson.

Music builds connection

Gibson says music helps many therapists build rapport with their clients. Music is often the bridge to building trust, helping children in therapy make gains toward new skills. Learning what songs people like teaches therapists more about them.

“Music is also a great way to learn about the different cultural backgrounds of our clients, as they teach us the songs they sing with their families at home,” says Gibson.

Music can improve mood and help with mental and physical issues. It’s an important tool for therapists to use with clients to build trust, reinforce positive behavior, provide calming input and to reach goals.