Music Therapy is the clinical application of musical elements and evidence based practice to elicit change in individuals within the context of a therapeutic relationship in order to facilitate, maintain or restore achievement of the individual’s fullest potential in cognitive, emotional, physical, and social functioning. Musical interventions are designed to meet the individual needs of clients, to engage them on an aesthetic level, and to motivate them through successful music-making experiences.
In Music Therapy you may see…
Musical Improvisation: musical instruments provide an opportunity to engage in self-expression as clients are able to create melodies and rhythms which resonate with experienced emotions. Musical elements such as dynamics (volume) and tempo (speed) can then be altered to move through different emotional states and create an external representation of feelings.
Song Writing: original lyrics are composed through both structured and unstructured formats with accompanying music facilitated by the therapist in order to support emotional content and provide empathic understanding
Melodic and Harmonic Cuing: the tonal structure of familiar songs is manipulated to create a sense of suspension and anticipation which in turn primes neurological responses for communication. This can be used to promote verbal expression in children with communication delays or individuals rehabilitating speech disorders such as Aphasia
Therapeutic Instrumental Music Performance: musical instruments are used to exercise and simulate functional movement patterns in motor rehabilitation as therapists provide neurological cues musically for spatial, force and temporal aspects of movement
How does it work?
Music reaches individuals on both unconscious and conscious levels by eliciting neurological, emotional and physiological responses such as an increase in endorphins, decrease in dopamine and serotonin levels and entrainment of motor activity. Because music activates these responses within us, controlled music can be used to promote change within these internal processes and can be used to treat the WHOLE person.
Who are Music Therapists?
Music Therapists are musicians trained in physiology, biology/neurology, psychology, development and pathology. They hold a bachelors, masters or doctoral degree from a program accredited by the American Music Therapy Association. The designation “Music Therapist Board-Certified” (MT-BC) is awarded to applicants who fulfill the degree requirements, a 900 to 1200 hour internship, and the completion of the Music Therapy Board Certification Examination.
Neurologic Music Therapy
Neurologic Music Therapy (NMT) is a clinical approach based on research in neuroscience of music perception and production. NMT uses various music elements such as rhythm and melody in order to facilitate brain plasticity by activating non-damaged brain areas to recruit neural pathways to support recovery from brain damage. NMT sessions are usually designed to work on functional therapeutic goals addressing physical, cognitive, social and communication skills in order to maximize one’s ability to function in everyday life. NMT can be used for a wide variety of individuals including, but not limited to, people with Parkinson’s disease, stroke survivors, Alzheimer’s disease, autism, brain injury, cerebral palsy, and other neurological disorders.