What is Music Therapy?
Music Therapy is the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional (MT-BC)
What Do Music Therapists Do?
Music therapists assess emotional well-being, physical health, social functioning, communication abilities, and cognitive skills through musical responses; design music sessions for individuals and groups based on client needs using music improvisation, receptive music listening, song writing, lyric discussion, music and imagery, music performance, and learning through music; participate in interdisciplinary treatment planning, ongoing evaluation, and follow up.
Who can benefit from music therapy?
Children, adolescents, adults, and the elderly with mental health needs, developmental and learning disabilities, Alzheimer's disease and other aging related conditions, substance abuse problems, brain injuries, physical disabilities, and acute and chronic pain, including mothers in labor.
("What is Music Therapy?", https://www.musictherapy.org/about/musictherapy/, 2018)
Music Therapy Techniques
(a brief and informal explanation)
Generally speaking, we can consider music therapy interventions within four technique categories; song recreation, music listening, improvisation and songwriting/composition. There is often overlap between these techniques, but it's a good starting point! We'll use the song "Over the Rainbow" as an example.
Song recreation is when the music therapist (MTBC) and patient are involved in live music-making and re-creating a pre-existing song, ie singing and playing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" on the ukulele. This is a common technique I use at in my medical music therapy practice, given that I usually see patients only once in an acute setting. Songs can be chosen by the patients based on preference, or by the MTBC based on music elements (tempo, dynamics, lyric content, etc) with purposes such as energizing, motivating, distracting, relaxing, uplifting, validating, etc.
Music listening might include the MTBC singing/playing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" or listening to the Judy Garland recording on a bluetooth speaker. This can be used in a passive way for emotional regulation, relaxation, etc - or within an active framework, perhaps using lyric analysis to inspire a discussion.
Improvisation = extemporaneous, spontantous creation of music. This is often where I'll use drums/percussion, so patients without music experience can engage fully in music making. Sometimes this is to encourage community /rapport building, or to experience connecting and communicating in a non-verbal way, or even to practice the anxiety response in a safe/structured setting. We might listen to "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" and then I'd ask the patient to improvise on the drums, what does 'hope' sound like to you?
Songwriting and composition is the intentional, planned creation of music. A patient could re-write the lyrics to "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" to be about their own dream-like place. Or we could make up our own song from srcatch to be their own hopeful theme song. Songwriting can turn a pre-existing song into something more personalized, or can be a composition where the patient voices their internal experience or explores a topic of interest. This can be a very meaningful experience for a patient who is processing complex emotions or a difficult experience.