What is Sound Healing?

Sound healing forms of therapy aim to improve your physical, emotional, and spiritual health utilizing music and the vibrations of sound.  Research shows sound therapy and vibrational therapy can produce vibrations to improve brain waves. Trained sound healing practitioners guide a person seeking treatment through a variety of aspects that could involve: 

  • Playing various instruments
  • Singing, humming, chanting 
  • Moving with the music
  • Meditating with sound

Sound healing dates back to ancient Greece. Damon of Oa, an ancient Greek Music Theorist believed the power of music could influence behavior because music moves the same as our souls move.  During this time, the Greeks used music as a treatment for mental disorders.

Many indigenous cultures used and continue to use sound healing practices.  Native American tribes such as the Cherokee and the Navajo have long used chanting prayers and drums to restore balance to individuals as well as uniting the community.  Sound therapies have been used for thousands of years in Africa and many tribes still utilize sound to heal mental and physical ailments.

Many of us are familiar with the unique sounds of Australia’s indigenous Aboriginal didjeridoo.  However, few people realize that the 40,000+ year old instrument was traditionally used in healing practices.  These ceremonies would often last through an entire night.

Used throughout history across many regions of the world, music can excite spirituality through chanting, prepare troops for battle with drumming, and even increase productivity by stimulating other areas of the brain while working.  Modern day studies have been conducted linking music to numerous health benefits.

Types of Sound Healing

Sound healings can come from many methods.  Some patients have found one approach resonates with them best, while others have found benefits from exploring all the different sound therapeutic styles.

Binaural Beats

Brainwave entrainment, or binaural beats is a sound therapy method that stimulates the brain using pulsing sound.  These pulsing sounds encourage brain waves through “frequency following” to align with the music’s beat. Evidence shows that this method can enhance focus, relaxation, and sleep and can guide people into entranced states of being.

Bonny Method

Helen L. Bonny, PhD is the creator of the Bonny Method of Guided Imagery and Music (GIM).  Music is the centered to this transformational therapy approach .  The approach utilizes sequences of classical music to stimulate imagery.  In GIM, the practitioner assesses the energy and mood of the client to select the music then used during the 30 to 45 minute session.  GIM is a “client-lead” process where the client takes the practitioner through the experiences stimulated by the sound.

Guided Meditation

Most of us are familiar with the benefits of meditation but sometimes it’s a difficult practice to develop.  Another way to approach meditation and incorporate sound healing is through a guided meditation.  Sound therapy through guided meditation generally involves listening to a practitioner sing or joining them in chanting or reciting rhythmic mantras.  Practitioners believe this approach to help reduce mood altering emotions such as stress, anxiety, and depression. Meditation may also lower pain levels, blood pressure, and cholesterol. 

Neurologic Music Therapy

Neurologic Music Therapy (NMT) is based from the neuroscience behind music cognition, perception, and production.  This treatment utilizes standardized techniques based from research to treat the brain through rhythm and music. Therapists focus on specific elements in music to optimize neuropathways in the brain.  Optimization of these pathways may achieve results in physical movement, speech, cognition, and other abilities.  Rhythm has been shown to work on a subconscious level and can help build new connections in the brain.  Due to this, those with brain injuries or who suffer from chronic pain may find this method an effective treatment.


The Nordoff-Robbins approach, also known as creative music therapy, was created in 1958.  This method is rooted in the belief that everyone–no matter how ill or disabled–can and will respond to music.  The therapy was originally designed to treat children with physical, developmental, or psychological disabilities.  Therapy training programs for the Nordoff-Robbins approach exist worldwide.

Singing Bowl Therapy

Tibetan Singing Bowls (also called Himalayan Singing Bowls) originated in the Himalayas.  India and Nepal primarily still create most of the world’s singing bowls.  The history of singing bowls goes back thousands of years. Monks in temples and monasteries used singing bowls for meditation, spiritual ceremonies, and sound healing.  Use of singing bowls has widely spread as a therapeutic treatment.  This is due to the fact that, singing bowl therapy may help improve sleep, reduce feelings of stress and anxiety.  Studies show it may help stimulate circulation, eliminate toxins,  lower blood pressure, and assist in recovery from trauma and/or illness.

Tuning Fork Therapy

Tuning fork therapy utilizes calibrated metal tuning forks to create vibrations applied to various parts of the body.  The forks vibrate so strongly they can transmit that vibration. This approach is similar to acupuncture only using sound as stimulation instead of a needle.  Practitioners believe these tools can change our inner tuning and create alignment in mind, emotion, and body. Research suggests tuning fork therapy could assist in deep muscle and joint pain.

Vibroacoustic therapy

Vibroacoustic Therapy (VAT) has patients lay on something such as a mattress with built in speaker containing special transducers. Then by playing music through the speakers, low frequency sounds produce vibrations that “massage” deep into the body. Studies have been conducted to show how the vibrations can increase brainwaves. This therapy may help those suffering from neurological disorders such as Parkeinsens disease.

Sound Healing Instruments

Image Credit https://americansoundhealing.com/

Different methods of sound therapy as well as different practitioners will utilize a variety of sound healing instruments.  These can be used on their own or in collaboration with each other. Some practitioners may also combine instruments with singing and/or chanting, and even electronic technologies.  Common sound healing instruments may included:

  • Singing Bowls
  • Tuning forks
  • Pan Flute
  • Harp
  • Drums

What Does Sound Healing Help?

Each sound therapy style differs slightly in approach thus results will slightly differ as well.  However, sound healing as an overall treatment may have an array of benefits.

Sound healing may help with conditions such as:

  • anxiety disorders
  • autism and learning difficulties
  • behavioral and psychiatric disorders
  • cancer
  • dementia
  • depression
  • post-traumatic stress disorder

Patients of sound healings have reported many benefits including:

  • decreasing mood swings
  • improving sleep
  • lowering blood pressure
  • lowering cholesterol levels
  • overcoming trauma 
  • pain management
  • reducing stress levels

Like so many other forms of alternative therapy, more research is needed on sound healing for us to truly understand how it works and how it may help people heal.  That said, what research has been conducted shows promising results. Additionally, there are thousands of testimonials on the benefits from sound healings.  And of course, the hundreds of years humans have been using sound as therapy show that even without modern research as proof – music has the power to heal.

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