Music has been known to be a great feature. LYLE MICHAEL finds out how it can be used more extensively in hospitals and treatment

One of the most integral aspects of life, music is no doubt a ‘soul soother’ which has slowly evolved to be incorporated into a science aimed at improving the quality of life. Used with individuals of all ages and a variety of conditions, it primarily helps improve the level of functioning in various areas such as cognitive, motor skills, emotional and social skills, by using activities inclusive of singing, songwriting, listening to and discussing music. Today, the use of “music therapy” has come to be used worldwide in various institutes from hospitals to clinics and by psychologists, social workers and therapists as well.

A first in this field, The Music Therapy Trust was set up in 2005 with an Excellency Centre in New Delhi to introduce the therapy to India and continues to spread through various parts of the country. The Trust aims to help children and adults who have autism or other learning, psychological, neurological, behavioral or physical difficulties. It also trains Indian students to be music therapists. Another example of the use of music for therapy in the social service sector is at a local level with the Sevadaan Special School at St Anthony’s Road, Chembur. Iona Extross, director of music therapy at the school has been involved with the improvement of the children of various age groups and of different conditions. She says, “There are various genres of music like devotional and rock, which can be used for different purposes. But the use of music aids primarily in expression as it evokes feelings and sentiments. From my experience with the children, there is one that really touched my heart. There is this young boy who would always have his hands crossed at his chest and would not interact with anyone. Through the use of music, he finally opened himself up to the others and asked me to dance with him as he saw the effect it had on the rest of the children. This is the power of music.”

In India, the professional world of medicine has not yet fully established music as a therapeutic tool, though there are evidences of inception and signs of progress. One of Mumbai’s most well-established hospitals, Holy Family at Bandra is known to provide holistic care. With gospel music playing through the speakers in every ward at intervals throughout the day, the patients are treated to peaceful and melodious tunes with words of encouragement and faith, which provide a soothing and homely atmosphere through the entire hospital. “Music brings solace and benefits the patients. No matter what faith, all our patients enjoy listening to gospel music. We also have instrumental music from various genres other than devotional”, says Dr Peter Rodrigues, consulting ENT surgeon. When asked about their thoughts on the use of music therapy, local doctors shared similar views. Dr Donald Lobo, consulting ophthalmologist at Diamond Garden says, “The tastes of my patients would vary and it would not be easy to please each one at the same time. Unless headphones with individual selection of music could be provided, music therapy would be limited. However, music on its own is very calming. Hence, I have it playing in my clinic at intervals for a comforting atmosphere.” Dr Rupal Someshwar, radiologist at Joy Hospital, Chembur expressed, “Chembur-Ghatkopar is a cosmopolitan area and hence tastes of the people are varied. It will be difficult to cater to all and the choice of music is very important. It would also depend on the purpose, whether for treatment or to promote a pleasant atmosphere.”

Whatever the purpose may be, however, music as therapy has emerged as one of its most powerful characteristics and will grow to be a prominent interpersonal process.

This feature was published in Chembur-Ghatkopar Plus (TOI) in Jan, 2010