When Classical Goes Clinical: The Best Composers to Listen to While Healing
Let’s face it: not all of us are ready to turn on Rachmaninoff when we come home from work at the end of the day or when we go on a road trip with our friends. We all have our own musical preferences, and they don’t all skew toward the classical genre. Like everything else, there’s a time and a place for every kind of music.
Sometimes we want nothing more than to take our aggression out while listening to Black Flag’s “Damaged”; sometimes, we want to lose ourselves in the jangly melancholy of the Smiths; sometimes, we need a track from Jay-Z to get us hyped up, and sometimes we just want something we can ignore while we clean our houses.
However, there’s something special about classical music that draws us to it when we need physical and mental healing. Whether this be during physical therapy, after surgery, or while dealing with a psychological trauma, classical composition can be incredibly comforting and therapeutic.
The therapeutic potential of music, particularly classical music, has been recognized and harnessed for centuries across different cultures. A growing body of scientific research is shedding light on why this may be.
Classical music’s complex structures and harmonious melodies can profoundly affect our minds and bodies. It can slow down our heart rate, lower blood pressure, and decrease levels of stress hormones. This soothing effect is especially beneficial for those struggling with anxiety or insomnia, making classical music for healing a natural and accessible means to promote mental health.
Moreover, classical music can stimulate our brains in unique ways. For instance, it can enhance cognitive functioning, improve memory and attention, and even help rehabilitate brain-damaged patients by enlisting healthy brain areas.
Engaging in music therapy, which often includes listening to or making music, has demonstrated positive outcomes in numerous clinical contexts. Research suggests it can enhance the mental health and quality of individuals suffering from cancer and neurological issues.
Remarkably, even just listening to music can trigger healing processes. One particular study revealed that using sound, voice, and music, including singing bowls, actively promoted healing.
Although the intricate mechanisms of music’s impact on our brain and body are yet to be fully understood, it is evident that classical music possesses substantial therapeutic potential.
Whether you are a patient seeking help, a medical professional searching for comprehensive treatment alternatives, or merely someone who appreciates music, the curative properties of classical music are worth investigating.
Healing classical music is frequently utilized in hospitals to establish a soothing patient environment. This is especially advantageous in areas with high-stress levels, such as the intensive care units or surgical departments. For example, research at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford discovered that patients who listened to classical music felt less anxious and needed fewer sedatives during their surgical procedures.
Rehabilitation centers also use classical music, especially in programs designed for stroke or traumatic brain injury patients , as music is known to simulate the part of the brain responsible for speech, movement, emotions, and cognitive function.
In one notable case, a professional musician who suffered a severe stroke regained his musical abilities and improved his speech and movement through intensive music therapy involving listening to and playing classical music.
Classical music healing holds a crucial place in therapy sessions focused on mental health. It can serve as a method for relaxation to alleviate anxiety, encourage mindfulness, and strengthen the bond between the therapist and the client. Some therapists even incorporate particular classical music compositions to assist clients in delving into and articulating challenging emotions.
Even in wellness programs, classical music can promote relaxation, reduce stress, and enhance overall well-being. Many wellness centers offer programs that combine activities like yoga and meditation with classical music.
The use of classical music in clinical settings is proof of its therapeutic potential. Whether it’s reducing anxiety in hospital patients, aiding in rehabilitation, enhancing therapy sessions, or promoting general wellness, classical music has a significant role to play in healthcare.
We should give credit to the talented composers who have played a key role in reintroducing classical music as a therapeutic tool in healthcare settings. Here are a few notable names that have been instrumental in the resurgence of classical music’s healing powers:
Johann Sebastian Bach – From chronic pain to anxiety, the Austrian-born Bach has been helping more and more patients heal from various conditions. Both adult and pediatric patients have experienced his influence.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – A recent study reveals the powers of Mozart and Straus in treating hypertension (high blood pressure). Works by the two composers were significantly more beneficial than contemporary artists like ABBA.
Johannes Brahms – Brahms’ works have been celebrated worldwide as a healing force for patients looking to increase their energy, achieve inner calm and balance their physical and psychological wellness. The composer has been found to help listeners reduce their stress levels as well.
Other composers used in clinical treatment include Beethoven, Wagner, and Mendelssohn. Embracing these works may take us a bit out of our comfort zone, but it’s important, whether or not we’re suffering from any kind of affliction, to branch out and continue our musical education however possible. Ultimately, we might find an unlikely source of healing and inspiration when we open our eyes and ears.
These are just a few of the practical healing benefits of music. Recovery Unplugged has released a new eBook on the healing properties of music in everyday life to provide further education regarding this invaluable therapeutic resource. We are committed to relaying music’s benefits before, during and after treatment or any other type of clinical intervention.
-  Darki, C., Riley, J., Dadabhoy, D. P., Darki, A., & Garetto, J. (2022, July 27). The effect of classical music on heart rate, blood pressure, and mood. Cureus. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9417331/
-  Raglio, A., Attardo, L., Gontero, G., Rollino, S., Groppo, E., & Granieri, E. (2015, March 22). Effects of music and music therapy on mood in neurological patients. World journal of psychiatry. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4369551/
-  Meymandi, A. (2009, September). Music, medicine, healing, and the genome project. Psychiatry (Edgmont (Pa. : Township)). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2766288/
- British Heart Foundation. (n.d.). Will listening to Mozart reduce your blood pressure?. BHF. https://www.bhf.org.uk/informationsupport/heart-matters-magazine/news/behind-the-headlines/music-and-blood-pressure#:~:text=The%20research%2C%20published%20in%20the,when%20the%20heart%20is%20at
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