Music Therapy- Is it a Real Field of Practice?

Have you ever wondered what music therapy is? Find out below!

According to the American Music Therapy Association, music therapy is “the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program.”

Okay, great. But what does that even mean?

This blog post will go over…

  • What is music therapy and who it is for?
  • How does music therapy compare to other music professions?
  • Who are music therapists?

What is Music Therapy and Who is it For?

Music therapy is an alternative form of therapy that addresses the needs of an individual through music. These needs can be increasing socialization with others, communicating thoughts and ideas, forming meaningful relationships, increasing range of motion, increasing short and long term memory, making associations and sequencing material, and performing everyday tasks.

People that typically receive music therapy services are those who are diagnosed with any of the following: Autism, Parkinson’s Disease, Dementia, Depression, Anxiety, Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder, Cerebral Palsy, Deafness, Blindness, ADHD, Retts Syndrome, etc. However, music therapy is not limited to these populations.

While music therapy can be for anyone, this doesn't mean that it is for everyone, though. If a person does not like music or is frequently overstimulated by music in general, music therapy might not be the best form of therapy for them.

How Does Music Therapy Compare to Other Music Professions?

There is much more that goes into music therapy besides playing instruments and singing songs! Music therapists have extensive training so they can use music to help people grow.

Once a client is referred to them, music therapists assess their clients and figure out the needs of that individual.

Music therapists then create a treatment plan in order to help tackle their client’s individual goals. There are four main methods of music therapy, but many variations fall within them:

  1. Receptive: active listening to music
  2. Recreative: taking a song, and putting your own spin on it
  3. Compositional: using thoughts, opinions, and ideas to create your own music or lyrics
  4. Improvisational: spontaneous music making

Let’s break them down with some examples:

Receptive: A common or frequently used receptive method is playing a song for the client with live music, or prerecorded music. The client can also do a lyric analysis of the song, which is where they have a lyric sheet in front of them and circle or highlight words that stand out to them. Afterwards, the music therapist might ask the client to answer questions about the song such as: how does this song relate (or not relate) to you, or, what do you think the composer was thinking during this part of the song?

Recreative: Together, the music therapist and client will take a precomposed song and make it their own. They can do this by using different instruments, vocals, or body percussion (clapping, stomping, etc) into it. Afterwards, a music therapist might ask the client: how does our version of the song differ from that of the original, or, what was it like to engage with others in the music--what did you learn?

Compositional: Have you ever wanted to create your own song? Maybe dive into some songwriting? Compositional music therapy is the place for you. Regardless of your previous music experience, anyone can write a song. In this type of method, the music therapist leads  the client through the songwriting process, helping them to get their thoughts on paper. They might start with a theme, or word, and go from there. The music therapist will begin bringing these ideas to life--using their musical background to help the client utilize instruments and vocals to create a song that is truly their own.

Improvisational: A simple example of an improvisation is when a music therapist gives a client an instrument and asks them to play a rhythm that represents how they are feeling today. This rhythm played by the client is known as an improvisation.

Who are Music Therapists?

Clients referred to music therapy, work with a board certified music therapist. In order to be a music therapist, one needs to have graduated with either a Bachelors of Science in Music Therapy, or graduated from a post baccalaureate program for music therapy.

Music therapist’s are required to complete 1200 clinical hours before becoming board certified. During the academic year, students are required to complete practicum placements each semester, on top of their regular coursework. A practicum is a clinical placement where the students get to interact with live clients and implement what they’ve learned in the classroom. Once their coursework is completed, students need to complete a music therapy internship in order to officially graduate from the program and be eligible to take the Music Therapy Board Certification Exam.

Music therapy is a small but rapidly expanding field. It is a legitimate healthcare profession that helps individuals, regardless of their goals.

If you or someone you know is interested in learning more about music therapy services and if it could possibly be for you, contact Three Rivers Music Therapy.