Power of Music Therapy in Reducing Stress 


In the hustle and bustle of our modern lives, stress has become an omnipresent companion, affecting our physical and mental well-being. As we search for holistic approaches to manage stress, one avenue that I have a biased preference for, with its ability to soothe the soul and elevate our mood, is the practice of music therapy.


Music has the unique ability to stimulate various regions of the brain responsible for emotions, memory, and even physical responses. Listening to or creating music triggers the release of neurotransmitters like dopamine, promoting feelings of pleasure and relaxation.


In a recent Meta- analysis study (a document summarizing multiple studies) on the reduction of stress, Martina de Witte discusses the importance of synchronizing beats during music therapy, also known as the ISO Principle. This synchronization creates a connection between two or more people. A trained music therapist can use this synchronization to lead the individuals to reduce the speed and intensity of the beat once the connection is created.  Rhythm is an inherent component of music that can synchronize with our heartbeat and breathing patterns, thus creating opportunities to reduce our heart rate and creating space for deeper breathing, helping individuals regulate their physiological responses to stress.


Synchronized rhythms is only one of many ways that music therapy can help reduce stress as mentioned in this Meta-analysis. A significant finding was the desire of the individuals who experienced music therapy wanting to continue their group experiences, versus those who were simply using music listening and creating music interventions of their own without the help of a music therapist. One of the unique aspects of music therapy is its emphasis on active participation. Engaging in musical expression, whether through singing, playing an instrument, or even songwriting, provides a channel for emotional release. By expressing pent-up emotions through music, individuals can experience a cathartic release, reducing the emotional burden that contributes to stress. de Witte provides this quote in the study stating: “There is empirical evidence showing that group music activities stimulate the release of the stress-reducing neurotransmitters endorphin and oxytocin as a result of positive feelings of togetherness and bonding among group members (Linnemann et al., Citation 2016; Tarr et al., Citation2014


As a music therapist I personally get the opportunity to experience this on a daily  basis, and I have witnessed how music can help with these inevitable daily encounters of stress in our lives.  


Music therapy can give individuals tools and accessibility to create coping skills, a skill we can put in our “tool box” when life feels overwhelming. Music has the ability to tap into the emotional and physiological realms and offers a unique and accessible way to stress reduction.

de Witte, M.  da Silva Pinho, A. Stams, G. Moonen, X. Bos, A & van Hooren, S.  (2022) Music therapy for stress reduction: a systematic review and meta-analysis, Health Psychology Review, 16:1, 134-159, DOI: 10.1080/17437199.2020.1846580

Kelsey Lawrence, MT-BC

Senior Music Therapist

Central Ohio Music Therapy, LLC