Music & Sound Therapy

/Music & Sound Therapy
Music & Sound Therapy 2017-01-31T03:36:52-05:00

Music is a very powerful sensory modulation tool! The therapeutic effects of music on the nervous system are well researched. Literature states that a 60 beat per minute pulse can help entrain healthy internal rhythms. Some important considerations before using music in the environment or during OT treatment sessions include the following: diagnosis, age, culture, environment, personal preferences, sensitivities, and personal history.

Slower paced music with a consistent and predictable rhythm is known for having calming effects on the system, while upbeat & quick paced music is generally alerting and facilitates action/movement. Some popular examples are listed below:


Ambient music encompasses a variety of music; most common today are many of the “relaxation tapes” widely available on the market. The purpose of these recordings is to produce a general state of relaxation.


Bach & Pachabel: These compositions are consistent and predictable, and have a pulse of approximately 50-70 beats per minute.


Mozart or Hayden: There is continuity, clarity, and order in these compositions – although they have greater changes in rhythm, time, and color than that of Baroque.


Tchaikovsky or Beethoven: Emotional and dynamic compositions known for their strong rhythms, emotional context changes, and unique sound textures which tend to stimulate the imagination.


*The instrumentation is another important factor to be considered. For example, drumming is often very grounding, while the violin is generally alerting/orienting.

Consider combining the appropriate music with other “sensory diet” techniques to provide the increased intensity often needed to achieve greater OT treatment outcomes!

Music Therapy Literature

Classical music therapy literature contains a host of valuable information about how music influences the nervous system. This knowledge forms a good foundation for professionals considering the use of music in treatment with individuals with psychiatric diagnoses. It is important to recognize the impact of the music selected and utilized, particularly for this population.

The American Music Therapy Association promotes research on the effects of music and music therapy. Currently, there is a significant amount of literature available.

Author: Dan Craig, OTR/L

Sound Therapy

Due to the potentially significant effects on the nervous system, modulated selections should only be used by certified Sound Therapy professionals.

  • Modulated Music: this term refers to music that has been processed using an alternating high and low pass filter creating a significant contrast between the upper and lower end of the frequencies.

  • Spectral Activation of Sounds: this is a type of modulation (or gating) of the higher spectral portions of the audio range.

This process of filtering and gating music is traced to the works of Dr. Alfred A. Tomatis and is at the core of The Listening Program.

These recordings are used to activate the tiny muscles of the middle ear and to strengthen and retrain the auditory processing mechanism.

The current works and conferences of Sheila Frick OTR/L and her colleagues help therapists to become educated about and certified to utilize modulated music in OT treatment. Due to the “cutting edge” nature of this work, there is little research currently available on the effects of the use of filtered or gated music specifically in OT treatment.

Currently in occupational therapy Sound Therapy has been utilized primarily with the pediatric population, although certified OT’s working in psychiatry (including adolescent, adult, and geriatric populations) also are beginning to use this treatment modality and are reporting positive effects!

Finding the “just right” combination…
The use of an appropriate “sensory diet” and the therapeutic use of self with this treatment modality, can serve as a dynamic treatment combination!

Click here for music selections available through this web site!