Harp therapy is a general term used to describe the types of therapies in which the harp is used. The harp, with its soothing timbre and spiritual associations, has been revered as a healing instrument by many cultures for thousands of years.
Harp therapy may be provided at home or in a clinical setting. The setting largely dictates what size harp can be used, however a variety of sizes of harps may be used to provide therapeutic harp music. When therapeutic harp music is played, recipients may receive beneficial effects such as increased relaxation, improvement in sleep, decreased pain and anxiety, stabilization of vital signs, and improvement in mood. An end-of-life music vigil can also help a patient to achieve a peaceful transition.
Some harpists, trained in other therapeutic disciplines such as psychology, music therapy and occupational therapy, use the harp in their practices to elicit specific cognitive or behavioral changes. In addition, a harpist might teach an individual to play the harp to assist in pain reduction, to help to overcome physical, mental and emotional challenges, to create a sense of community in a group setting, and to provide physical rehabilitation.
Research in the field of harp therapy not only focuses on clinical studies and case studies, but also explores the unique attributes of the timbre of the harp through cymatics, acoustics and quantum physics.
Typically, a therapeutic harpist receives training from a therapeutic musician training program. The graduate is then awarded a certification credential that is unique to his/her program. Standards of practice for Therapeutic Musicians have been established by the National Standards Board for Therapeutic Musicians (NSBTM).
The Harp Therapy Journal
The Harp Therapy Journal has been dedicated to furthering education, research, communication and awareness in the emerging field of harp therapy for more than fifteen years. Editor Sarajane Williams conceived the journal as a vehicle for harp therapists, harpists, music therapists, physicians, nurses, researchers, psychologists, physicists, educators and harp music lovers to share ideas and information on the subject.
Harp therapy is a general term used to describe the continuum of types of therapies in which the harp is used. On the passive end of the continuum, harp practitioners may work or volunteer in an institutional or clinical setting and play harp music for clients or patients who are passive recipients of the beneficial effects of the music (i.e. relaxation). A harpist working in an emergency room waiting area or in a neonatal care unit might represent the passive end of the continuum.
Further along the continuum, harpists who are licensed or trained in other therapeutic disciplines use the harp in their practices to elicit specific cognitive or behavioral changes. For example physicians, psychologists, music therapists or nurses might use the harp music as a treatment modality (i.e. for emotional catharsis) or in conjunction with another therapy such as vibroacoustic therapy, biofeedback/relaxation training, or in a rehabilitative setting.
At the active end of the continuum, individuals learn to play the harp to: ease their pain and overcome physical, mental and emotional challenges; create a sense of community in a group setting; and provide physical rehabilitation.
Investigations about the specific effects of harp music on the human body are just beginning and are described in the Harp Therapy Journal. The unique timbre of the instrument provides a very soothing and relaxing effect. The harp has a rich archetypal heritage in western culture as an instrument of healing - it is the instrument of angels, gods and kings.
The Harp Therapy Journal is available by
Selected article from a past issue of The Harp Therapy Journal in pdf:
Vol. 8, No. 2 Summer 2003 Effects of harp music therapy on canine patients in the veterinary hospital setting
Vibroacoustic Harp Therapy(R) (VAHT(R))
Often described as a musical massage, Vibroacoustic Harp Therapy(R) (VAHT(R)) involves the live performance of harp music, amplified through a vibrotactile chair or pad, directly delivered to a patient's body in the form of sound vibration. When the patient (or client) senses that specific tones or pitches resonate in areas of the body where s/he experiences pain or tension, the VAHT(R) practitioner plays music that features and emphasizes those pitches. The music may be improvised or selected from existing repertoire.
A harp with at least 36 vibrating strings resonates with and relaxes the patient's body and mind. While lying or sitting on a vibrotactile pad or chair, a patient experiences musical tones in different areas of the body at different times - so the therapy is a dynamic process, tailored to each patient. Abstract thinking slows and awareness expands. S/he may have increased body awareness and feel like s/he is dreaming. Occasionally, memories (positive or negative) may be recalled, or re-experienced, or symbolized through imagery. New awareness and insight, positive reframing or integration of previously repressed material may possibly lead to emotional release. In addition to deep relaxation and increased body awareness, most patients report significant relief of pain or symptoms, positive imagery and a feeling of being nurtured.
VAHT(R) is usually administered by or supervised by a licensed professional in private practice or clinical setting. Vibroacoustic Harp Therapy Practitioners(R) receive training through The VAHT Training Course(R).
Harp Therapy Journal Subscriptions and Back Issues
VAHT Training Course(R)
Harp Therapy Products, Harps, and Music at PlanetHarp.com