What is Music Therapy?
As defined by 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. Music Therapy is an established health profession in which music is used within a therapeutic relationship to address physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs of individuals. After assessing the strengths and needs of each client, the qualified music therapist provides the indicated treatment including creating, singing, moving to, and/or listening to music. Through musical involvement in the therapeutic context, clients' abilities are strengthened and transferred to other areas of their lives. Music therapy also provides avenues for communication that can be helpful to those who find it difficult to express themselves in words. Research in music therapy supports its effectiveness in many areas such as: overall physical rehabilitation and facilitating movement, increasing people's motivation to become engaged in their treatment, providing emotional support for clients and their families, and providing an outlet for expression of feelings.” -American Music Therapy Association
How can music be used for clinical growth?
This is a wonderful question with an endless number of answers! First, consider some of the skills required to engage in different musical activities; singing requires adequate breath support; playing a drum requires the ability to grasp a stick and the motor control to reach out and beat on cue; making music with another person involves listening and being aware of various social cues, and the list could go on and on. A music therapist works to isolate some of these skills and builds on an individual’s current ability level. For example, to increase range of motion, the therapist might strategically place instruments and gradually move them to stretch the client and require different movement. To work on auditory processing skills, a client can play different instruments in response to different auditory cues.
And don’t forget that music is fun! It ranges from being motivating and upbeat to calming and comforting, and is found in all parts of society: sporting events, weddings, funerals, school functions, festivals and more. It allows for a unique form of self-expression and emotional outlet. An individual grieving the loss of a loved one may find that making music provides the way to express the things they cannot express with words.
Lastly, music engages a large portion of the brain. Research has shown that stroke patients who have lost the ability to speak may maintain the ability to sing, allowing music to help aid in the rehabilitation process. Music’s diversity gives it the potential to be adapted and used to create a variety of experiences that will help individuals grow and achieve.
Do you need to be able to play an instrument in order to receive music therapy?
No prior musical skills or knowledge are needed. A variety of percussion instruments are used as well as singing and movement, and all experiences are designed to build upon a client’s current ability level.
Who is qualified to practice music therapy?
Music therapists carry the credential MT-BC (Music Therapist-Board Certified), which is awarded after passing a national examination given by the Certification Board for Music Therapists. Before they are eligible to sit for the exam, music therapists must complete an approved college degree program followed by a six month internship. Music therapists must retain their certification by obtaining a minimum of 100 continuing education credits every 5 years.