The use of music to change mood, liven social situations and augment special moments has been happening through the ages. Turco-Persian psychologist al-Farabi wrote about the power of music to offer therapy to the soul in the 10 century. In the 17th century Robert Burton wrote that music and dance were critical when treating melancholia. Today, we see social workers implementing this age-old remedy tool. Social workers began combining music with social work in 1990 with the movement of therapeutic musicians. Since then not-for-profits such as Music for Healing and Transition Program have developed programs that teach social workers how to implement music into their regular practices.
Music and the Elderly
Social workers with a musical gift can use their skill to soothe those in long-term illness settings such as hospice, hospitals, and nursing homes. Those who practice therapeutic music find a lot of satisfaction in using many of their talents to serve others. Some social workers even work with the elderly to create songs together and to help them remember things they’ve forgotten. Music has been a proven tool for helping the elderly reorient themselves as senility takes over precious memories and clarity. One remarkable story features an elderly man who had no response to anyone or anything in a nursing home for two years. A social worker played a song from his era and he started moving his feet and shaking his head to the beat. It’s the only pleasure and response he had had in two years.
Music to Help Children
Since children have a more difficult time feeling comfortable with social workers and even communicating their feelings to others, music therapy is a great tool for helping children feel more comfortable with social workers. In some cases, allowing the child to play rather than listen will help him or her open up to the social worker and communicate the things they need.
Especially if your client has a mental block such as ADD or depression, music has proven to help mentally and physically according to studies. Specific tones, notes or even pitches can have a specific effect on the body. Music is also often used with children who have autism. Using uncomplicated songs that can help autistic kids follow along can help them to get focus. After a simple music exercise, autistic kids are generally more responsive to those around them.
Music and Adolescents
The moods and hormones of teenagers are forces unto themselves. The number of mood disorders that lead to suicide is higher in teens than in any other age group. This is also, not surprisingly, an age group that needs its music. The average American teen listens to more than 4 hours of music every day and buys 70 percent of the music bought in the country. If a social worker is having a hard time getting through to a teen, the chances of music breaking ice is better than nothing.
Music can be used in a variety of ways to help address your client’s needs. From making the client more comfortable to soothing emotional ailment, music is helping social workers use an age-old tool to help those around them.
Robert Neff writes articles on music and how it is therapeutic qualities is used by social workers in therapy sessions. A degree in social services could be a good career choice and is available at Case Western University.