Music Therapy Thursday: What is Music Therapy?

So, as you may or may not know, I work as a music therapist.

And, as you may or may not know, March is Music Therapy Month.

So during March, I’m going to be posting on Thursdays about what is that I do, and what music therapy is, and whatever else comes to mind about my work and what it can do for people. I know this is predominantly a book blog and this is way off topic, but this is super important to me, and even one person takes the time to learn what music therapy is, this detour will be worth it.

What is music therapy?

Music therapy is a discipline in which credentialed professionals (MTA*) use music purposefully within therapeutic relationships to support development, health, and well-being. Music therapists use music safely and ethically to address human needs within cognitive, communicative, emotional, musical, physical, social, and spiritual domains.

*Music Therapist Accredited/Musicothérapeute accrédité

Canadian Association of Music Therapists
June 2016

What is a Music Therapist Accredited?

Music Therapist Accredited is the Canadian certification that allows us to practice. In order to become a Music Therapist Accredited, you need to take a Bachelor’s or Graduate program in university, followed by a 1000-hour supervised internship. Once you’ve completed your internship, you are required to write and pass an exam before you can receive your MTA.

Once you’ve got your MTA, you need to continue to participate in continuing education in order to keep your professional standing.

Every country has their own designations and training process, though many share similarities to Canada. If you’re really interested, you can look into your country’s music therapy association and they’ll be able to give you more information.

Who do music therapists work with?

Music therapy can be used with all ages, abilities, and musical backgrounds. You can find music therapists working in health care facilities, long term care, educational settings, community settings, day programs, and private homes. Newborn babies, all the way through to senior citizens can benefit from music therapy.

What sort of music training do clients need to benefit from music therapy?

None! You don’t need any training to participate in music therapy sessions.You’ll actually find that many music therapy clients don’t have any training, they just enjoy it.

What music do you use in music therapy sessions?

The best music to use in a session is the client’s favourite music. So if a person’s favourite style of music is rap, that’s the best music to use. If it’s classical, same thing.

This can lead to some interesting groups, where tastes are divided. I’ve done a group for teens where half of them loved Disney, and half loved rap. We rapped Disney songs. It was interesting, and we all agreed that it didn’t really work.

What’s the difference between Music Care programs, like iPod projects, and music therapy?

Music Care sometimes looks very similar to music therapy, and it can be confusing. Music Care uses music to increase quality of life, as music therapy does, but music therapy takes it so much further and music therapists have much more training in how to use music to effect change in people without doing harm.

In music therapy, there is no focus on music outcome and there is no passive participation. Even sitting and listening to music is turned into active participation by the music therapist, maybe through relaxation techniques or verbal prompts. Also, the client is the most important person when it comes to music therapy, not the therapist, even if they’re the one singing. Chances are, the music therapist isn’t even thinking about what they’re singing, because they’re too busy watching for the client’s reactions.

Music Care is awesome, and I’m not knocking it in any way. But there is a difference, and the two aren’t interchangeable.

What sort of things do you do in a music therapy session?

Music therapists use a ton of different interventions in sessions. Playing instruments can work on gross and fine motor skills, as can movement interventions. Singing can assist in relaxation and promote self-expression. Improvising can allow for creativity, more self-expression, and allow the clients to work through their thoughts and emotions in a non-verbal way. Songwriting can also assist in self-expression. Listening to music can allow for discussion, help clients to relax and work on memory and attention skills. Just to name a few.

Where can I find more information on music therapy?

The best place to start is to look for your country’s music therapy association (or check out Canada’s here).

Or you can toss your questions into the comment box below, and I will do my best to find you an answer!



2 thoughts on “Music Therapy Thursday: What is Music Therapy?

  1. I can’t express how much I love this! Music has helped me so much in terms of my mental illnesses. It’s such a powerful too. I’ve been struggling on and off with therapy, but I would definitely give this a try if there was something like it in my area. Unfortunately I live in the middle of nowhere, haha. This must be such a wonderful and rewarding career!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That is so awesome to hear! It’s just an incredible tool to use within therapy, because everyone has some sort of music they like. I totally hear you on the middle-of-nowhere thing – I had to move to be able to just do my job, as it doesn’t exist on the small island where I grew up. It’s such a great job, honestly. I love it. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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