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Dynamic Lynks Blog

Music Therapy or Music Education?

This past week, one of my clients asked me what the difference between Music Therapy and music class was. As a board certified music therapist AND certified music educator, this is one of my favorite questions to answer!

Last week I talked all about music therapy; where it came from, who it helps, the works! Though the concept of music therapy is becoming more understood, some people still have trouble discerning what makes a music therapist and a music teacher different.

The difference is clear when we take away the word music:



The treatment of disease or disorders, as by some remedial, rehabilitating, or curative process.



The act or process of imparting or acquiring general knowledge, and generally of preparing oneself or others intellect.

What it boils down to is that music therapy is working on functional skills, while music education is working on musical skills. The reason this is sometimes indiscernible to the outside observer is because music therapy and music class can look very similar.

For example, a music therapist might use the ukulele in session with a client who has fine motor delays. The therapist may adapt the ukulele using colored stickers so the client has a visual target for where their fingers should go. The therapist could teach the client a favorite song or two and they will play and sing together.

On the surface, this looks a lot like a traditional or adapted music lesson, but the therapist is not concerned about the musical skill (learning the ukulele), the therapist is concerned about the functional skill (fine motor movement and isolation of the digits).

The confusion that arises from a session like this sometimes makes it difficult to explain music therapy and to advocate for the profession. But this is also the beauty of music therapy. Children don’t realize they are working on critical, functional skills; they are just enjoying making music!

Music Therapy can facilitate skill development in the cognitive, communication, social/emotional and motor/physical domains... to name a few. If there are skill areas your child can benefit from using music as the therapeutic medium, contact us and learn more about our unique programs!

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