Music Therapy for ADHD

For most people, music is an important part of life. While performing their daily activities, many require different types of music. Music is linked to mood as a certain tune can make us feel happy, sad, energetic or relaxed. Thus, music has great impact on a person’s mind and overall health. Hence, music therapy has been studied and used in managing variety of medical conditions. This is because different types of music evoke neurological stimulation which leads to positive changes in a person’s behaviour. Music therapy has been used to heal various health conditions like diabetes, cardiac issues, and also various mental health problems like stress, depression, anxiety, Autism, ADHD etc.

Music Therapy for ADHD

What is Music Therapy?

Music therapy is an expressive art therapy and an allied health profession. Music therapy is designed by a qualified (certified) music therapist according to the needs of an individual undergoing treatment. A music therapist makes or uses appropriate music to make life better of their patients, to promote healing and also to uplift mood.

What Problems Can Music Therapy Heal?

It is used as a therapy for individuals of all age groups. Children, adults, and elderly with stress related problems; mental health issues, developmental (Autism) and learning disabilities like dyslexia, ADHD, Alzheimer’s disease and end stage cancer or terminal illness. It is used to treat brain injuries, substance abuse, during pre-natal and post-natal care and pre- and post-surgical care.

Music Therapy for ADHD

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a common behavioural disorder that affects about 10% of school-age children. ADHD children are hyperactive and have problems in focussing on studies or on a given task. ADHD children may develop problems in relationships with peers, parents and mentors. ADHD is attributed to genetic or environmental effects. Parental use of alcohol, drugs and tobacco and exposure to toxic substances (such as lead) are directly linked as causes of this disorder in children. Some even mention that certain areas of brain in ADHD children are 5%-10% smaller in size as compared to the normal children. In addition, there are some chemical changes that take place in brains of such children.

Currently, ADHD is controlled by medications and counselling. In addition, these standard treatments are complemented by use of music therapy. One of the main aims of behavioural treatment for ADHD is to develop sufficient levels of self-control in such children. Research studies have shown that ADHD children if given music therapy can train their brains to focus and be in self-control while in classroom and at home.

Music therapy provides rhythm which has a structure and this structure is soothing to an ADHD child’s brain and helps it to stay on a linear path. Further, pleasant music increases levels of dopamine (a neurotransmitter) in brain. This neurotransmitter is responsible for regulating attention, working memory and motivation, which is generally in low levels in the brains of ADHD children. Music helps to increase these levels and share neural networks and improve cognitive processes. Overall, music therapy influences mood and reduces impulsiveness and restlessness. Music therapy decreases anxiety and stress in the body of ADHD children. Thus, music therapy has healing effect in ADHD cases and is encouraged.

How is Music Used in Therapy for ADHD?

A music therapist uses music and all its facets-physical, emotional, social, aesthetic and spiritual, to help patients with ADHD improve their physical and mental health. By involving in improvisation of music, singing, listening to, discussing and moving to music helps patients (clients) with ADHD to improve their health in several domains such as cognitive functions, motor skills, emotional development, social skills and overall quality of life. Music has the capacity to develop and improve an individual’s awareness of themselves and their environment, increase self-confidence, ability to express verbally, use of non-verbal skills, express emotions, pay attention to task and improve memorization skills. This helps a patient with ADHD overcome the difficulties faced due to the disorder.

How is Music Therapy Used for Children with ADHD?

Music therapy is practised in two forms as Active and Receptive. In active therapy, the therapist and patients with ADHD are actively involved in creating music with instruments and voice, which allows patient to be creative and expressive. While in receptive therapy, the therapist makes or plays music to the ADHD patient who listens or meditates on music.

Generally, preference is given to classical music as compared to the rock music. Since classical music has soothing effect on mind and body while rock music causes discomfort hence it is discouraged. Rhythm, melody, and tempo are tools used to target non-musical behaviours, to bring change throughout the body.

What Kinds of Music are Chosen for Therapy for Children with ADHD?

Classical music is considered the best therapy for children with ADHD. In western culture, the music of Wolfgang Mozart, Bach and George Handel, Johannes Brahms, Peter Tchaikovsky and music of Johann Pachelbel are used by music therapists. Different countries have their specific classical music which is used as therapy for children with ADHD of that region. Thus, all forms of music may have therapeutic effects, but music from one’s own culture may be the most effective.

Benefits of Music Therapy for Children with ADHD

Music therapy in the form of classical music generally reduces anxiety present in ADHD children. This type of music calms them and then the children can focus well on their work. Music also gives opportunity for children to express themselves. Since music is full of rhythm and harmony, it improves attention, motor control, and academic skills in children with ADHD. Music as a therapy does not require a musical talent to benefit from it. This therapy can bring out hidden musical talent, if any, present in children with ADHD. Overall music is non-invasive, safe and motivating when used for therapy for ADHD.


Music when used properly is a powerful treatment tool. In most cases it makes life better of patients suffering from different medical conditions. Although use of music therapy should be encouraged, it should not be used only as a sole treatment for potentially dangerous medical conditions. It should be used in conjunction with standard treatments but only for those patients who like and respond to music.

Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:April 9, 2018

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