Harp therapy is any type of therapy using a harp. In practice, listening to harp music is usually the main component of harp therapy, although some forms of music therapy do advocate actually playing the instrument. Explanations of why therapy using a harp might be effective include the particular resonance of the instrument as well as the general psychological benefits of listening to music. Usually, the benefits claimed by proponents of this type of therapy include reduced stress and pain rather than relief from any particular disease. This type of therapy is typically considered experimental and may not be provided in all traditional medical facilities.
The actual mechanism by which harp therapy is thought to work depends on the type of therapy being received. One of the most common types involves a harpist playing a harp directly for a patient while monitoring that patient for signs of stress or enjoyment. In this case, the therapy may be effective because of the inner peace brought on by music. Given the relationship between pain, stress, and healing, it is not uncommon for people receiving this treatment to heal faster.
Another common type of harp therapy involves the patient playing the music. Harps are interesting instruments to play, and the stimulation provided by challenging music can improve morale and coordination. Therapy of this type relies both on the sound qualities of the harp, which are pleasant to the patient's mind, and the actual action of playing the harp.
Whether harp therapy is effective depends on how it is used and the specific situation. This type of therapy is almost always used in conjunction with other types of treatments, making it difficult to determine the exact effects of the harp. Efforts have been made to create specialized training programs for harp therapists in order to add more credibility to this type of therapy, but certification for harp therapists is not available. More generally, this type of therapy is usually classed as music therapy, which is a discipline in which a person can obtain special qualifications.
One of the problems with harp therapy is that it depends in part on the listener. If a person hates harp music, then this type of therapy is very unlikely to be successful. Most of the work of music therapy takes place in the patient's own brain, not directly between the sound patterns and the body. For therapy of this type to be successful, the patient must be well suited and receptive to the music.