What is Music Therapy

What is Music Therapy

“Music therapy is an interpersonal process in which the therapist uses music and all of its facets – physical, emotional, mental, social, aesthetic and spiritual – to help clients improve, restore and maintain health. In some instances, the client’s needs are addressed directly through the elements of music; in others they are addressed directly through the interpersonal relationships between client and therapist or group. The music used in therapy may be specifically created by the therapist or client, or it may be drawn from the existing literature in various styles and periods” (Bruscia 1991).

Music therapy is employed for meeting specific therapeutic aims which include: ‘Socialisation, communication(verbal/non verbal), relaxation, stimulation, pain or stress management, emotional expression or coping, self-expression, self-esteem, motivation, independence, and physical, motor and cognitive skills’ (AMTA 2012). Music Therapy is therefore distinctly different from music entertainment and music teaching. Goals and outcome measures in music therapy are distinctly non-musical!

When is music therapy typically used?

You will find music therapy is particularly effective for conditions such as (but not exclusive to): Medical illness, trauma, physical disabilities, sensorimotor impairments, psychiatric disorders, emotional and behavioural disorders, substance abuse, developmental disorders and delay, cognitive impairments and aging.

You will find music therapy employed in settings such as: Special education, hospitals, aged care, palliative care, mental health services, charitable organizations, community centers, mainstream schools and private practice

What methods are utilized in music therapy?

Methods utilized by music therapists are informed by psychology and the health sciences, and employ theories from humanistic, psychodynamic, behavioural and creative approaches to well-being, either singularly or increasingly in a blended model.

The music therapist designs the methods to be used in an intervention according to client needs and desired goals. In simple terms, some specific methods of music therapy are (adapted from Bruscia 1991):

Improvisation: The client is supported/accompanied in freely creating within capabilities his/her own music on a chosen instrument. This can involve presenting a non-musical idea (e.g. emotion or situation) via the improvisation. This method supports development in areas such as: Spontaneity, creativity, playfulness, expression of emotions, communication, sense of identity, interpersonal relating, self-confidence, setting new behaviours and building a sense of safety in expression emotions.

Music re-creation: The client is engaged in vocal and/or instrumental tasks that involve reproducing music in some form. This method supports development in areas such as: Gross and fine motor skills, sensorimotor skills, physical strengthening, speech, memory, adaptive behaviours, awareness of others, choice-making, socialization, self confidence, reality orienting, co-operation and belonging.

Composing: The therapist assists client in writing songs or instrumental pieces including recording the material in some form. This method supports development in areas such as: Expressing and communicating feelings at important life stages, understanding personal emotions, examining irrational fears and thoughts, documenting personal change, organizing decision making, learning selectivity, identifying and developing themes, self-expression.

Receptive engagement: Active listening to music (live or recorded) is used when there is a need for physical, emotional, intellectual or spiritual soothing. The client may respond via relaxation, meditation, free-movement, art making or reminiscing. This method supports development in areas such as: Pain management, anxiety reduction, psychotherapeutic self-analysis, auditory processing, memorization and reality orienting.

Music Therapy is a relatively young profession which combines art and science and is placed under the allied health umbrella of services. It is currently practiced in over 40 countries around the world by music therapists who have completed an accredited training program.

For more information it is recommend you visit “The Australian Music Therapy Association’ web-site at: http://www.austmta.org.au

Bruscia, K. (ed.) 1991, Case studies in music therapy, Barcelona Publishers, London.