Describing music therapy is akin to the visual description of a cut glass crystal: some sides catch the light and are illuminated more than others. Likewise, the information on this website does not tell the whole music therapy story, but selectively describes the field of music therapy and provides resources for further exploration.
Music is universal and appealing.
Musicianship is dependent on many factors but the capacity for musicality, musical self-expression, and enjoyment is innate. ALL PERSONS ARE MUSICAL UNTIL THEY LEARN TO BE OTHERWISE.
Music is a therapeutic medium.
Inherent in music are many qualities that render it conducive to therapeutic process:
- Music affects us physically; it moves us.
- Music is time-ordered; it has an organizing effect.
- Music is a social experience; it is a means for interaction and participation.
- Music has the capacity to stimulate memory, images, and modify mood.
- Music is holistic and integrative; melody (intellect), rhythm (somatic energy), timbre (sensory experience) and harmony (emotions) speaks to and elicits a response from the whole person.
- Music is communication that may be used directly in nonverbal music dialogues or indirectly as a means of expression that bridges inner and outer experience.
What is music therapy?
Music therapy is the skilled use of music and musical elements by an accredited music therapist to promote, maintain, and restore mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health.
Music therapy entails an aesthetic experience of music that is available to all, young and old, regardless of the nature or extent of any disability or condition. No previous music skills are needed.
Music therapy is a professional practice. Music therapists are professionals who have a minimum of an undergraduate degree in music therapy that consists of specified academic coursework, musicianship, and clinical supervision. The Canadian Association for Music Therapy (CAMT) is the professional organization for music therapy in Canada.
Why use music therapy?
Music has nonverbal, creative, structural, and emotive qualities that are used in the therapeutic relationship to facilitate contact, interaction, self-awareness, learning, self-expression, communication, and personal development.
Music therapy treatment addresses client need related to one or more of the following:
- Personal growth, exploration, and discovery.
- Functional music skill, including adapted music instruction or referral to regular music instruction, as required.
- Music/cultural leisure skills and aesthetic development.
- The effect of music and related expressive arts to minimize adverse effects of aging, disability, trauma, illness, and institutionalization by providing:
- sensory stimulation;
- opportunities for socialization and interaction;
- a means of self-expression through nonverbal communication;
- appropriate music for pain relief;
- skills for relaxation and stress management;
- opportunities for increased self-awareness and enhanced self-esteem through creative, aesthetic expression.
Who may benefit from music therapy?
Anyone, young or old, who enjoys and responds to music may benefit from music therapy. Formal music training is not a prerequisite for involvement. Music therapy may be used to:
- Soothe infants and transition to sleep;
- Develop independent leisure skills;
- Assess for regular music instruction;
- Enhance self-esteem and positive self-concept;
- Regulate emotional states;
- Promote communication and social skills;
- Stimulate developmental sequences;
- Reinforce special education program;
- Contribute to rehabilitation program;
- Pain management (e.g., acute, chronic, palliative, childbirth);
- Overcome performance anxiety;
- Self-discovery through realization of creative potential.
Music therapy goals and objectives are identified by assessment collaboratively with clients, and an individualized program is formulated.
What happens during a music therapy session?
The content of the music therapy session as determined by treatment goals, music preferences, functional abilities, and space limitations may include:
- Singing – e.g., for emotional release, socialization, breath control, language development, self-expression (song choice, song writing), memories (life review).
- Movement to music – e.g., as stimulus to maintain or increase range of movement and walking.
- Music listening (live and recorded music) – e.g., for appreciation or enjoyment; relaxation, sensory stimulation; to facilitate social interaction, verbalization, to evoke images, memories or modify mood.
- Guided imagery and music – e.g., to learn relaxation techniques for stress or pain management; for self-exploration and personal growth.
- Music learning – e.g., to exercise cognitive, tactile, sensory and motor skills.
- Playing musical instruments (structured or free-form ensemble) – e.g., to maintain or increase fine and gross motor control, as nonverbal communication and emotional release.
- Participation in music and related cultural events – e.g., for appreciation and aesthetic development; community reintegration.
- Related expressive art modalities (e.g., art, writing, movement) and relaxation techniques (e.g., autogenic training or mindfulness meditation, progressive muscle relaxation) may also be explored.
How much does it cost?
A schedule of fees is available upon request.
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Is music therapy a good fit for your facility? Careful needs assessment eliminates guesswork in program planning.
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Music therapists, are you getting the referrals you want? Supervision provides the support you need to solidify and expand the breadth and depth of your current practice.