Your Questions About Music Therapy Answered

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What is music therapy, and is it right for you? In this short video, Dr. Alexander Pantelyat, founder of Johns Hopkins Center for Music and Medicine, answers common questions about music therapy and Parkinson’s. Interested in learning more about emerging therapies for Parkinson’s? Don’t forget to sign up for our upcoming webinar, “Emerging Therapies in Parkinson’s” with Dr. Michael Okun.

Show Notes

Question: If I’m not good at music, would music therapy be beneficial for me?
Answer: Yes. There is something to be gained for everyone, regardless of music ability, when it comes to rhythm and music exposure. 99% of humans can process melody and rhythm, which can lead to neuroplasticity, your brain’s ability to create new neuronal connections.

Question: What does a music therapy session look like?
Answer: Sessions are highly individualized depending on your needs and goals. Music therapists are trained musicians as well as clinicians, utilizing techniques in counseling and other medical knowledge to inform each session. Neurologic Music Therapy, a subspeciality of music therapy, will use specific techniques including but not limited to RAS (Rhythmic Auditory Stimulation), PSE (Patterned Sensory Enhancement), and TIMP (Therapeutic Instrumental Performance) to achieve therapeutic goals.

Question: Is Music therapy covered by insurance?
Answer: It depends on where you live and who your insurer is. Some states have developed a licensure for music therapy, which means that music therapists are able to bill under their own unique code. However, in most states, music therapists have to bill under the same code as another profession, such as physical or occupational therapy, which is not always covered by insurance.

Question: Does music help with apathy or depression?
Answer: Based on research studies, mood and quality of life improve with music therapy. Although there have not been many direct studies on the effect of music on apathy, music has been shown to activate the areas of the brain that are damaged in Parkinson’s, and since apathy is a symptom of Parkinson’s, it’s possible that apathy would improve with music. Music can also be used as a motivational tool for increasing engagement and decreasing apathy in activities like exercising. By choosing to engage with music you enjoy during these activities, you can increase your motivation to do them for longer and with more intensity.

Question: Are there many physicians who understand the value of music?
Answer: While the Johns Hopkins Center for Music and Medicine is unique in its breadth of understanding, Dr. Pantelyat is encouraged that an increasing number of physicians are becoming aware of the impact of music. The National Institutes of Health is beginning to financially support the advancement of research in music and medicine.

Question: Do you have advice about finding a Parkinson’s music group?
Answer: Google can be a great resource to discover what’s in your area. Type in key words such as “Music”, “Music Therapy”, “Singing” and “Parkinson’s”, as well as the name of your hometown or state, and you should find what’s available.  If there are no music groups near you, there are now many groups available virtually.

Questions: Is there a difference in efficacy between listening to ambient music or using headphones?
Answer: Not necessarily. Research studies will often use headphones to eliminate other possible variables affecting the study, but especially if you are using music in your own home and your own way, one is not necessarily better than the other.

Question: As a musician, I’m starting to lose my abilities to play. Should I give it up?
Answer: That is a personal question that only you can answer. There is often a high level of frustration that comes with losing abilities when there was previously a high level of expertise. In this case, it might be better for your health to let it go and find a new creative pursuit that fits your life right now. On the other hand, sometimes working with a professional or being intentional about staying patient with yourself can help you maintain your musical abilities and passion.

Question: How do you develop a setlist or playlist of music?
Answer: There are many options these days when it comes to listening to music. You can continue to play records or CDs if that’s what’s available to you. You can visit YouTube, a free online video resource, and search for the kind of music you are looking for. You can download applications to your phone, tablet, or computer such as Spotify, Apple Music, or Amazon Music and create playlists for free or for a small monthly charge. If creating a playlist or downloading an application is a confusing process for you, consider asking a relative or a friend who may have more knowledge in this area to help.

Learn more about music and music therapy

resources on our blog

How Music Therapy Can Help You Live Well With Parkinson’s

A Resource Guide For Complementary Therapies For Parkinson’s

Using Music To Heal and Live Well With Parkinson’s

resources On our youtube channel

Music and Rhythm For Parkinson’s

Music Therapists Explain Music Therapy

Resources from the American Music Therapy Association

What Is Music Therapy? 

How to Find a Music Therapist

History of Music Therapy

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