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June 18, 2021 Amelia Wilcox

Beating Employee Stress Using Music Therapy at Work

If you’re looking for unique ways to bring wellness to your employees, music therapy has some interesting uses and benefits.

Music therapy can be used for several specific physical or mental wellness conditions, as well as for general personal growth, empowerment, and stress reduction. See how you can use music therapy—and music in general—for stress in the workplace.

Music Therapy: One Answer to Employee Stress

What is the Definition of Music Therapy?

The American Music Therapy Association (AMTA) defines music therapy as a way for people to receive positive healing effects from a clinically directed program of “creating, singing, moving to, and/or listening to music.”

The effects come from working with melodies and rhythms in a way that strengthens brain synapses, improves coordination, and lowers the levels of stress-related hormones.

Related: 7 Problems That Employee Stress Management Programs Solve

The AMTA is careful to distinguish between clinical music therapy as directed by a certified music therapist, and the general pleasant experience of enjoying music.

So while creating and listening to music may feel positive, the true therapeutic effects described by the AMTA can only come from a regimented program from a trained professional.

How Does Music Therapy Work?

Participants of music therapy don’t require any prior music training to enjoy it or get the benefits.

The benefits happen from working with rhythms on hand drums or working with simple melodies.

Some work may be done on simple instruments that are easy to learn the basics of. Clients learn to put together simple melodies, sing or move to the music in a regimented program their therapist has put together for them. Many different genres of music are used during music therapy.

Some music therapists will simply play music for people based on what they like best!

Music therapists can work with remote teams as well.

Benefits of Music Therapy at Work

Here are some ways music therapy is used:

  • Reducing pain
  • Improving sleep patterns
  • Brain injury rehabilitation
  • Improving communication and speech abilities
  • Improving motor function
  • Lessening effects of dementia

As more companies are striving to provide mental health and wellness support, programs like music therapy may start to show up as a workplace benefit.

According to Dr. Suzanne Hanser, music therapy positively affects heart rate, blood pressure, and vital signs—all keys to maintaining mental focus and agility at any task.

As a non-invasive, drug-free supplement, employees could see positive effects on mental health, brain functioning, stress reduction, focus, and even relief from depression and anxiety.

music therapy and music at work—man playing piano in grayscale

Music Therapy for Mental Health

Music therapy can be effective for people that suffer from depression. Music therapy, when combined with other treatments such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or medication, can help people recover from depression. This study also found that music therapy for anxiety is effective as well—especially for cancer patients.

Here are some music therapy activities and ways you can tap into the power of music for your mental health, inspired by music therapist Peter Carpenter:

  • Use music to help redirect your thoughts, helping you change the negative thoughts you may be experiencing.
  • Listen to music that matches how you are feeling. Then, gradually switch to music that has a more positive mood to help lift your spirits.
  • Journal. Write down your thoughts and feelings, your favorite lyrics, or anything else that resonates with you through the process. This will help you discover which types of music help you feel better.
  • Listen to new music, or find new things in the songs you already love. Get your brain thinking in new ways. This will also help you be mindful while listening to music.
  • Try learning a new instrument. This is a great way to increase creativity and reduce stress. Use music as an outlet!
  • Try meeting with a music therapist. They will help you integrate music into your mental health journey.

How to Use Music Therapy in the Workplace

Given the wide-ranging effects of this kind of work, there could be numerous benefits for the workplace.

For employees, music therapy could be particularly useful as an alternative form of rehabilitation following a work-related injury, or as part of a mental wellness and support program.

Related: 6 Signs You’re a Workplace Wellness Expert

But, you don’t need to have a music therapist come into your workplace to reap some of the benefits of music at work.

Listening to Music at Work

Music at work isn’t new. Back in 1942, a radio station in the UK tried broadcasting upbeat music for 30 minutes, twice per day for factory workers. For some companies, it helped increase productivity!

Music can increase creativity, improve productivity, and help improve mental health by reducing stress, anxiety, and depression. Calming music is best—especially classical music.

Music can be especially helpful for people with intellectually demanding desk jobs, like programming, marketing, analytics, etc.

The Best Music to Listen to at Work

Here are some of the best tracks to listen to while working, inspired by an article by the University of Nevada:

Looking to branch out even more? Here are some of the best genres/types of music to listen to at work:

  • Classical music
  • White noise
  • Music with ASMR sounds
  • Tibetan singing bowl music
  • Instrumental music
  • Upbeat songs
  • Soundtracks
  • Piano, flute, or guitar music
  • Music with alpha waves
  • Happy, uplifting songs

Overall, the best music to listen to at work is calming and soothing. It should be able to fade into the background while you’re working. It shouldn’t be the main point of focus for your brain.

For similar benefits, employees can also listen to nature sounds.

Music You Shouldn’t Listen to at Work

It is best to avoid music with words. This can be distracting and lead to multitasking.

The more complicated the music, the worse off employees tend to be. Music that is melancholy, angry-sounding, or has a complicated structure may also do more harm than good.

If you’re in an office, it is best for employees to listen using their headphones so everyone can listen to what works best for them.

Nivati makes supporting employee mental health super easy – for employers and employees. We are the all-in-one employee wellbeing app!

Nivati’s average utilization rate falls around 65% – way more than the EAP average of about 20%.

Our clients have their very own Customer Success Manager that will help your company make mental health a priority. We can make customizations to our platform based on your employees’ specific needs.

We provide employees access to counseling, yoga, meditation, fitness classes, financial coaching, and so much more – live and on-demand. Our practitioners are located around the world!

Want to learn more? Call us at 1 (800) 556-2950 or request a demo today!



By participating in/reading the service/website/blog/email series on this website, you acknowledge that this is a personal website/blog and is for informational purposes and should not be seen as mental health care advice. You should consult with a licensed professional before you rely on this website/blog’s information. All things written on this website should not be seen as therapy treatment and should not take place of therapy or any other health care or mental health advice. Always seek the advice of a mental health care professional or physician. The content on this blog is not meant to and does not substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

Amelia Wilcox

Amelia Wilcox is the Founder and CEO of Nivati, a leader in corporate massage and employee mental health support since 2010. Her high-growth B2B company provides employee stress management tools that arm businesses with actionable data and positive employee experiences to improve wellbeing, boost morale, and increase engagement.

Amelia has exponentially grown her company from a solo living-room service business to an international technology brand.

Recently listed as a Forty Under 40, Fast 50, Inc 5000 Twice awarded National Woman-Owned Small Business of the Year

Licenses, Certifications & Memberships
Licensed Massage Therapist since 2002
Member of American Massage Therapy Association
Served on Utah Worksite Wellness Council from 2012-2015

Attended Utah College of Massage Therapy
Educated in Nutrition and Exercise Physiology at the University of Utah

Massage Magazine (AMTA's publication)