What is harp therapy?

Harp therapy endorses a balance between music, medicine and spirituality with practitioners using the harp to offer both bedside music and interactive work with patients. We play for people who are mentally or physically stressed, for crying babies, for people undergoing chemotherapy and also in doctors surgeries, hospitals and hospices.
Each individual has their own resonant tone - a key that works best for them - and the practioner endeavours to find that key. Using a small bedside harp the practitioner works with the patient to help them in emotional, mental, physical and spiritual healing. In this way the soothing sounds of the harp can not only enhance the quality of life, but also create the possibility of interactive work in which the recipient might play the harp. Working with the therapeutic harp is as varied as the needs of our clients.

The harp

The harp has been used for healing over many centuries. It was only when Erard invented the powerful pedal harp that harps became orchestral and concert instruments and the original healing magic was largely forgotten. Orpheus played on his lyre to charm the animals. There are pictures of harps played in Ancient Egypt and Babylon for ceremonial occasions. David played for Saul to uplift his depression. Caedmon played songs of meditation and praise for Hilda.
Today we have used science to research the powerful effect of the harp, especially evocative because the strings are not stopped. Music played on the harp has several unique healing properties. The resonance from the strings, including the range of pitch and tonal colour, set up an important relationship between the sound and the recipient. Harp therapy is known to reduce blood pressure, lower heart rate and help create harmony within the body. And harmony in the body and mind brings about healing.


People of all ages and circumstances benefit from harp therapy which may be provided in the home or in a clinical setting. Increased relaxation, decreased pain, improvement in sleep or mood and a stabilization of vital signs are some of the many benefits which harp therapy can bring to the recipient.
The harp can be used as part of a corporate stress management programme helping to increase motivation and concentration. In childbirth harp music can help create a safe and soothing atmosphere, whilst the benefits of interactive work - touching and playing the harp - can help co-ordination and concentration.
In a clinical setting there have been a number of studies in the USA where live harp music was seen to be effective in helping to reduce pain and anxiety as well as being effective in helping to decrease heart and respiratory rates. Harp beat affects heartbeat!

Harps in Heather © 2010 E M Westhead.

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