What is Music Therapy?
It is Music Therapy week here in Illinois, so I figured it is the perfect time to talk about music therapy and all of the goals it can be used to accomplish! When I introduce myself as a music therapist, I often get a strange look and I spend the following 5 minutes explaining what music therapy is.
WHAT IS MUSIC THERAPY?
“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.”
There are a lot of assumptions about what music therapy is. People often say to me “that makes sense, music is very therapeutic.” While yes, music listening can be extremely therapeutic, a music therapist actively uses music to facilitate functional change in goal areas that have nothing to do with music. In my sessions, I often work on speech/language, cognitive, sensorimotor, and social/emotional skills. I use specific, evidence-based techniques to reach goals in these clinical domains. There is a vast amount of music therapy research currently in circulation, and I use this to guide my practice every day.
THE HISTORY OF MUSIC THERAPY
“The idea of music as a healing influence which could affect health and behavior is as least as old as the writings of Aristotle and Plato. The 20th century profession formally began after World War I and World War II when community musicians went to Veterans hospitals to play for veterans suffering both physical and emotional trauma from the wars."
Most people don’t realize how long music therapy has been around. In 1789, Music Therapy was sited in an article titled “Music Physically Considered”. The idea of music as a therapeutic medium grew throughout the 1900's, and gained popularity in the 1940’s when patients in Veterans hospitals saw notable change in both their physical and emotional well-being when working with the musicians visiting them. As the need for music as therapy grew, the first Music Therapy program was established in 1944 at Michigan State University.
BECOMING A MUSIC THERAPIST
It takes a lot of time and studying to become a music therapist. Currently, music therapists are required to have a bachelor’s degree in music therapy. This means four years of undergraduate course work in music therapy, accompanied by a minimum of 4 clinical practicums under the supervision of a board-certified music therapist. After finishing 4 years of college, you complete a clinical internship that totals 1,040 hours. To become a practicing music therapist, you must successfully complete the Certification Board for Music Therapists’ exam. Please always look for the certification MT-BC when hiring a music therapist. This means they have completed all of these critical steps to become a certified music therapist.
TYPES OF MUSIC THERAPY
Just like there are different approaches to traditional talk therapy, there are several approaches to music therapy. These include Behavioral, Holistic, Nordoff-Robbins, Guided Imagery and Music (GIM), and Neurologic Music Therapy (NMT). I studied NMT techniques throughout my undergraduate course work, and it is the approach I take in my music therapy sessions. NMT studies how disorders, disease and trauma affect the brain, as well as how music affects the brain, and uses this research to create music therapy interventions that develop, rebuild, and repair neural pathways in the brain. I use NMT techniques in my sessions because I specialize in neurodevelopment disabilities and I like to know how my interventions are affecting different brain areas that are critical for growth and development.
WHO CAN BENEFIT FROM MUSIC THERAPY?
“Research in music therapy supports its effectiveness in a wide variety of healthcare and educational settings.”
You can find music therapists in hospitals, schools, mental health facilities, recreation programs and many other locations. Music Therapists work with a wide range of clients from birth to elderly, both with and without disabilities. Because music therapy can be used to reach a variety of goal areas, it can be beneficial for almost anyone. If you know someone who is looking to reach goals in the areas of cognition, communication, physical rehabilitation, socialization, emotional regulation, relaxation, sensory integration, memory enhancement, pain or stress management… music therapy might be for them!
I hope this helps you learn a little bit more about the profession I am so passionate about. I am so lucky to be able to help my clients work on these goals every day and I hope more people look into music therapy for themselves, their loved ones, and their children.