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Music Therapy 101

Theory and Implementation

What is music therapy?
History of music therapy
Who seeks help from music therapists?
Who uses music therapy for treatment?
Theory and Implementation
Education and Training
Music Therapy Links
Case Studies
Beat Stress Flyer


Music Therapist rely on the ISO principle which states that to produce a channel of communication between a therapist and patient.  The patient’s mental tempo has to correlate with the sound-music tempo expressed by the therapist (Benenzon, 1999).   The ISO principle matches the mood of the patient to the music being played and/or listened to, which in turn, fosters the achievement of an altered state of consciousness (Using music therapy in Nursing, 2002).  Every human being has a universal ISO that evolved from the body-sound-music phenomena.  The body-sound-mind stimulates perceptions and sensations that are “…dynamically deposited in each individuals’ subconscious (Benenzon, 1999, p. 43).  The universal ISO consists of sound archetypes formulated over the millennia (Benenzon, 1999).  Our heartbeat, the rhythm of our gait, our inspiration and expiration sounds and the sounds of our environment are a part of our genetic makeup (Benezon, 1999).

The gestalt ISO develops during fetal development as a result fetus’ perceptions of sound experiences inside the womb, such as their mother’s voice, heartbeat, their own heartbeat and blood flow.  The universal ISO and the gestalt ISO unite to give the fetus its own unique characteristics of sound identity.  The cultural ISO develops after birth via sound phenomena perceived from its social context.

Treatment begins with diagnosis.  The major objective during diagnosis is discovering the patient’s ISO principle (if working in a group, the group ISO) and the integrating and intermediary objects (i.e. instruments) that will help the therapy session be more productive and efficient (Benezon, 1999).   To achieve the former, a music therapy questionnaire is composed and the nonverbal context (i.e. sounds in the environment).  The Music Therapy questionnaire examines the patient, his family and all the sound experiences from infancy onwards (Benezon, 1999).  Next the patient’s awareness of his nonverbal contexts are tested via exploration of a series of simple percussion and melodic instruments, in order to observe how he uses them to communicate in the nonverbal context.  The examination determines what instruments will be used as an intermediary object and what the patient’s possible ISO will be.    It will also determine the patient’s rhythms that reflect their physiological or emotional state, which will be used to gradually and rhythmically change to a desired physiologic or emotional state(Using music listening in nursing, 2002).  During the Music therapy session, the Music Therapist works with the patient to help identify and by opening up new opportunities for future group integration or other therapies.

The ISO principle has been used successfully in preoperative settings.  A study was conducted using the ISO principle in this setting in which music was played at a tempo that matched the patients’ normal rhythms.  The rhythms were gradually slowed, the tone made softer and the pitch lowered.  Due to the very slow rhythm and softness on tone and pitch, the patients’ required fewer anesthesias and awoke from surgery easier with fewer side effects (Using music listening in nursing, 2002).