Earlier this week, we talked about Music Therapy with young children. A lot of the uses are similar for older children, and they are explored here, but I feel that the differences need to be paid attention as well.

Music as Fun: The same principles as I stated for younger children applies here. Music provides a non-threatening and enjoyable opportunity to be a child again. It enables children who have been the primary caretakers of their families to become wholly involved in something that is pure enjoyment, to dance without worry, to create, and to grow.  The children who are “too cool” to play, can let go of their façade and experiment, try things that may or may not work, and forget about their image.

Music as a Reality Check: I use the term “reality check” here loosely. When you turn on the radio to a top 40’s station, you are bombarded with images of living big: money, cars, boys, women, drugs, alcohol, parties, sex, and no responsibility. To a child who is selling drugs so that mom can buy their younger sibling diapers, or the child who worries because they see the word “late payment” or “foreclose” or “eviction”, this sounds ideal. By analyzing lyrics and using them in discussion, often the messages of a song that lies under the flashy words can be uncovered. This, when discussed appropriately, can help these children to get a closer look at their role models, what they are singing about, and to make decisions about who they wish to imitate.

In another usage of the word “reality” is reality orientation. Often in older children, we see psychosis of one nature or another. It may be substance induced, related to a mood disorder, or of neurologic causes. Music has the ability to bring a person to the present without the trauma that can be caused by administering a PRN medication. To participate in music, the client has to be aware that the music is there and that they can be part of it. This is reality, and so they become a part of it.

Music as a Positive Social Experience: Similar to its social uses with younger children, music therapy provides an opportunity for the older child to make a positive social bond with the therapist, their peers, or their families. Making music together requires a level of listening and attention that most teenagers are not known for. From my experience, and from my reading of the experiences of other therapists who have worked with children, after musical encounters, these children tend to be more verbal about their feelings and to talk and interact more with their peers.

Well there you have it. There is a lot I did not cover, but I would love for feedback! If you have any comments on anything I stated, or would like to add your own ideas, feel free! Remember, this is a discussion.