Music therapy is a discipline which involves the performance and appreciation of music - improvisation, songwriting, movement to music - as tools for healing across a broad spectrum of illness: psychological, physical and developmental. From recovering cancer survivors to people suffering from psychosis, to troubled adolescents, those participating in physical rehabilitation after an accident, children with autism or patients coping with post traumatic stress, music therapy combines science with the ancient art of music-making to access parts of ourselves which mainstream medicine and psychology can struggle to reach.
I remember being told at Uni that 'music' (in one form or another) is such an innate part of the human experience that musicologists have long held that there is not a single documented culture on earth that does not have some kind of musical practice, often tied in with a social and ritualistic meaning. Music helps us express ourselves, and also helps us process things that words alone cannot. Indeed, one theory of the evolution of language in humans which fascinates me posits that Neanderthals had the vocal tract capacity for vocalisation before they had the neural capacity for the use of symbolism (and therefore the capacity for the development of language), pointing to the possibility that 'music' developed as a form of communication even before language. (Mithen, The Prehistory of the Mind, 1996)
I love that there are people out there - healers and carers, and in many cases in Australia pioneers - who are tapping into this primal and instinctive level of our psyches to effect positive change in the lives of people who need it. My own slightly colourful story is all the evidence that I need to believe in the healing power of music. What about you?
For more information on the wonderful work done by music therapists in Australia, check out the website of AMTA here: http://www.austmta.org.au/