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What is Music Therapy?
Written by Hyunsung Lee - Julie Lee | Published. 2020.11.01 16:21 | Count : 769

Despite medical advancements around the world, there are still illnesses for which there is no cure. If you were to ask someone to name some, they might mention cancer or even the recent pandemic, COVID-19. However, an illness that is rarely mentioned is mental illness. Mental illness is especially difficult to treat and cure as it is something that happens in one’s mind, and is thus a battle within oneself that cannot be won with only medication Nevertheless, mental illness cannot be ignored in the hopes that it will go away on its own as the cost would be one’s happiness, health, and perhaps even life.

Therefore, mental illness must be addressed. Yet, this is difficult as there is no surgery for mental illness, nor can it be cured solely with medication. However, one common treatment for mental illness is psychotherapy, also referred to as just “therapy.” Therapy is, according to the Collins English Dictionary, “the process of talking to a trained counselor about your emotional and mental problems and your relationships in order to understand and improve the way you feel and behave.” There are also multiple types of therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, recreational therapy, and humanistic therapy. However, there is one type of therapy that many people may not have heard of: music therapy.

Although I had heard of music therapy, I didn’t have a deep knowledge of it. Therefore, to gain deeper insight into music therapy, I decided to interview Hunil Lee, a music therapist currently working in the Behavioral Health Unit (Adult Psychiatric Inpatient Unit) at Abington Hospital-Jefferson Health.

[Photo of Hunil Lee and the author. Photo credit: Hyunsung]

To begin the interview, I asked Hunil what music therapy was most commonly used for. He stated that music therapy was used for overall physical rehabilitation and to help clients cope with treatment. He said that this was possible because music therapy allows patients to regulate and express their emotions through various activities.

Moving on, I asked Hunil what happens during a music therapy session. To my surprise, I learned that there is no specific formula for a music therapy session. Hunil said that this is mainly because he never knows what will happen during the lesson. He emphasized that you never know how patients will react to certain words or actions. However, Hunil did mention that, going into every session, the therapist has a therapeutic goal that has to be met through music. He said that each goal can be met through different activities, such as improvising on instruments, singing as a group, listening to music, or discussing song lyrics.

[Photo of Hunil Lee during a music therapy session. Photo credit: Hunil’s coworker]

I asked Hunil if he thought music therapy was an effective treatment method, and he answered immediately that he believes it is. Hunil said that this is because he believes that music is a “universal language” that has the power to touch all aspects of a person, including their mind, body, and behavior, and thus open up their hearts. Moreover, he mentioned that he has been told by many of his clients that they felt much better and seemed to be in a much better mood after the session.

Hunil explained that due to the high effectiveness of music therapy, there has recently been high demand for music therapists, especially in the geriatrics and psych units. He said that there are currently only around 8,000 music therapists who hold the MT-BC (Music Therapist - Board Certified) certification in the United States. He further mentioned that although there are currently only 8,000 music therapists, he expects there to be many more in the future.

I hope that by reading this article many of you will have learned about music therapy and its effectiveness for the first time. It may even be a good idea for you to try music therapy to lift your mood. Especially, due to the recent pandemic, I strongly recommend that the many people who have lost their jobs and are experiencing a very hard time try music therapy.

Hyunsung Lee - Julie Lee
Grade 10
Korean International School

Hyunsung Lee - Julie Lee  student_reporter@dherald.com

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