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Music Therapy


Updated January 27, 2013

Music Therapy

Music for the Brain

Skypixel @Dreamstime.com

Ask anyone about milestone events in their life and they’ll most likely tell you about them, along with the music they remember from that event. Events such as a high school graduation, prom, weddings, a first date – all of which are associated with music. It is no wonder that music therapy can be used to help us during difficult times as well, which can include surviving a disability.

What is Music Therapy

According to 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. It is the structured use of music to assist people of all ages in times of need.”

Music therapy cannot cure or treat any mental or physical problem. It assists in the treatment when used by certified counselors and therapists. Music therapists can be found working in medical hospitals, drug rehabilitation centers, cancer centers, and physical rehabilitation centers, as well as a variety of other facilities that employ the helping professions.

Music Therapy History

Therapy that involves music has been around for centuries. One of the earliest mentions of music therapy was of David playing the harp for King Saul. Since that time, there have been numerous mentions of playing music to effect change in individuals. Alpharabius (al-Farabi) described music as therapy in Meanings of Intellect. Robert Burton wrote about the positive effects of music and dancing on depression in The Anatomy of Melancholy. Native American medicine men have used dancing and chanting to assist in healing patients, and they still use this as a method of treatment today.

Music Therapy Sessions

A therapy session will be different for each individual, as certified therapists create a specialized program, depending upon the client’s needs. A therapist will analyze the following skill areas during the initial assessment:

  • Cognition
  • Communication
  • Physical ability
  • Behavior
  • Social skills
  • Creativity
  • Musical ability

After the initial assessment and evaluation, goals and objectives are set. Once those are established, music sessions can begin. Sessions are usually set for a specific time each week. During the sessions, therapists and clients will work together to meet the established goals. A session may include writing music, playing music, listening to music and movement to music, according to the abilities of the client.

Periodically, a therapist will re-evaluate the progress that the client has made and make adjustments to goals and objectives as needed. Occasionally, individuals may make no improvement after therapy, and a therapist may suggest termination of the program. Those who respond positively to treatment may continue it as long as they have an ongoing need.

Anyone who wishes to participate in music therapy may do so without a doctor’s referral. Individuals who no longer have an ongoing need, but enjoy the therapy sessions, may do so without a doctor’s prescription for treatment. It is important to note, however, that therapy sessions which continue past the initial need need may not be covered by insurance without additional orders from a physician.

How Music Therapy Helps

Music therapy helps by providing individuals with a coping mechanism for dealing with a crisis, traumatic event, or a disability . The therapy can help to create a safe and supportive environment that is relaxing. Therapy sessions can provide the following:

  • Stress reduction
  • Positive change in mood
  • Increase feelings of self-confidence
  • A non-verbal outlet for emotions
  • Active involvement in their own therapy

How to Find a Music Therapist

Individuals and caregivers can find music therapists in a variety of ways. With Internet access, visit the American Music Therapist Association (musictherapy.org) to see a listing of individuals who are registered as a Music Therapist in a specific locale. They may also be found by calling local universities or colleges that have a music program, as well as through local counseling centers.

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