Periodically I hear someone’s perception of music therapy, and though interesting at times, it can be daunting to hear as we don’t want people in our community to have the wrong impression of what we do. I’m here to answer a few questions and clarify potential misconceptions of music therapy.
#1 “You have to be musical to receive music therapy…right?”
No. You do not have to have any musical background or experience to be in music therapy! Music Therapists are trained to adapt music interventions to meet the client’s needs and abilities in order to address goals. Each session is personalized depending on the client’s interests, preferences, and development level. How cool!
#2 “Why should we start music therapy if it covers similar goals to other therapies?”
Music therapy can have goals that may overlap with Speech Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Behavioral Therapy, Physical Therapy, and when working with Child Life Specialists. MT-BC’s (Music Therapist Board Certified) have the capability to address all of these domains in one session. In treatment, music can act as a motivator, reinforce the client’s goals, structure interventions, and cue responses such as speech. Music Therapy is all inclusive and can act as a supplement to other therapies to provide the client with the utmost success.
#3 “Oh, I listen to my iPod- that’s my music therapy.”
Music Therapy is defined as using music to address non music goals. Technically, Music listening could be used in treatment to address goals. However, the difference is MT-BCs are trained to utilize specific techniques with the music, whether it be to increase relaxation, decrease anxiety, or for pain management. It would be similar to someone saying, “Talking to my friends is my therapy.” You may have heard this phrase before. We all know that venting to a friend may be a good coping skill, as is, listening to music. However, we all know actual talk therapy is when a therapist or counselor is present, same with music therapy when a Music Therapist is present or implements the intervention in some way.
#4 “I’m a music therapist too! I play the piano and sing for a nursing home once a week!”
This would fall under entertainment. Let me break down music as entertainment versus music as therapy. Music as entertainment could be listening to a performance, going to a concert, or listening to the radio. Not to say music as entertainment can’t make you feel better. But music as therapy is using music to address a need or goal. In regards to a nursing home or assisted living facility, music therapy interventions could be used to increase cognitive stimulation, decrease agitation, decrease wandering, elevate mood, or increase socialization. Furthermore, MT-BCs utilize the latest research on how to best approach treatment.
#5 “Is there proof music therapy even works?”
Yes, Music Therapy has empirical evidence to validate its effectiveness. Journals devoted solely to Music Therapy research include: Journal of Music Therapy, Music Therapy Perspectives, Music Therapy, Nordic Journal of Music Therapy, and Music Therapy Matters. Music Therapy research has also appeared in other journals such as: Journal of Gerontology, Journal of Pediatric Nursing, Journal of Palliative Care, Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, and Journal of Clinical Nursing just to name a few. Check it out!
-Janelle M. Sikora, MM, MT-BC