Improvisation, Music Listening, and Debilitating Disorders: A Narrative Review of the Promise of Music Therapy in Addressing Issues of Communication, Emotion, and Neurology


  • Daniel Aaron Toland Union College


Music therapy, active, passive, combined, significant pathology


Although music therapy has been used in numerous ways to address a wide variety of pathologies, the scientific consensus on its efficacy is far from certain. In the hopes of focusing further on music therapy research, this article makes a distinction between active and passive music therapy and how the two types of music therapy have been used to treat disorders of communication, mood and anxiety, and neurological impairment. After a preliminary understanding of music therapy was established with several overview books, a variety of articles were chosen by the researcher that show claims for and against the efficacy of music therapy. All sources were found and acquired through Schaffer Library databases at Union College between September 5th, 2018 and November 14th, 2018. The author reviewed examples of each type of music therapy, including scientific case studies, observational studies, quasi-experiments, and systematic reviews. The studies’ findings and shortcomings were discussed leading to the conclusion that future music therapy research must attempt to maximize sample size and experimental controls. In addition, music therapy would benefit if the effect of music was tested on healthy populations. Music therapy represents another possible tool in relieving significant distress.

Author Biography

Daniel Aaron Toland, Union College

Union College Psychology and Music Interdisciplinary Major, Senior






Literature Reviews