Let The Music Do The Talking: Musical Therapy As An Outlet For Anxiety In Children
If you look up the definition of music you will find it described as “vocal or instrumental sounds (or both) combined in such a way as to produce beauty of form, harmony, and expression of emotion.” Music has been put to use for centuries to achieve these ends, with earliest known instruments dating back 45,000 years ago. While music has been used throughout time to tell stories, to portray emotion, and as entertainment for musicians and audiences alike, it has also been put to use for therapeutic reasons – even early civilizations used music as part of their healing rituals.
In our current society, music is still called upon for its restorative and therapeutic benefits. It is employed in many medical situations, from pain management to psychological understanding. In recent years, it has also been used to address anxiety issues in children. When considering mental health and children, anxiety disorders are the most widespread, affecting as many as 10% of all adolescents. Anxiety disorders in children can be exhibited in many ways, including separation anxiety, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, social phobia, panic, and aggression. If not properly addressed, a child’s anxiety issues can continue into adulthood and may be a precursor for depression and substance abuse problems.
Traditional methods of treating anxiety disorders in children include cognitive behavioral therapy and prescription drugs that affect the brains serotonin levels, a chemical in the body responsible for happiness. These treatments methods require a child to verbalize their emotions to an adult in order for their progress to be assessed. However, many children with anxiety disorders struggle with their ability to relay their emotions to others. Music, from the very definition listed above, is meant to be used to portray emotions. For children, their parents, and doctors, musical therapy can be employed as a tool allowing a child to express their emotions without words. It may also inadvertently allow a child to begin talking about their emotions when they describe what they were playing.
Unlike music therapy in ancient civilizations, there is now scientific evidence to support musical therapy’s ability to help reduce anxiety in children. A study carried out by Jim Hudziak at the University of Vermont found that when a child learned to play a musical instrument it physically changed the configuration of certain structures in the brain responsible for controlling emotions, anxiety, and focus. When employed therapeutically in children suffering from anxiety disorders, over time the children were able to better cope with their anxiety issues by allowing them to focus and better control their emotions. Due to his findings, music could be employed as both a preventative method for anxiety issues as well as a therapeutic tool for children already afflicted with the problem. While it is not suggested that musical therapy should be administered in place of traditional treatment methods including prescription medication or behavioral conditioning, it can aid in a child’s treatment of anxiety disorders and in some cases, help reduce the anxiety all together.
For further strategies and ideas on coping with children’s anxiety, check out the post at www.mommyedition.com .