What is music therapy?
Music therapy is a creative therapy, a highly effective largely non-verbal approach to personal therapy. It is increasingly recognised as a valuable part of the care of people, of all ages, who have sensory, physical, learning or neurological disabilities, or who have emotional or behavioural problems. For many, the powers of speech are at best limited.
Music therapy is used to help people work through emotional issues enabling them to cope better with their lives.
In music therapy, although the emphasis is on the process of creating music in a live and spontaneous way, musical skills are not required for someone to benefit from this special work. Over time, a trusting relationship can develop through the music which therapist and client create together. This, in turn, can facilitate physical, mental, social and emotional development.
'Music focuses on developing what we share as human beings, rather than on the pathology that divides us.' Sandra Brown, Music Therapist JBMT '88 (1)
The BAMT (British Association for Music Therapy) describes Music Therapy:
There are different approaches to the use of music in therapy. Depending on the needs of the client and the orientation of the therapist, different aspects of the work may be emphasised. Fundamental to all approaches, however, is the development of a relationship between the client and therapist. Music-making forms the basis for communication in this relationship.
As a general rule both client and therapist take an active part in the sessions by playing, singing and listening. The therapists does not teach the client to sing or play an instrument. Rather, clients are encouraged to use accessible percussion and other instruments and their own voices to explore the world of sound and to create a musical language of their own. By responding musically, the therapist is able to support and encourage this process.
The music played covers a wide range of styles in order to complement the individual needs of each client. Much of the music is improvised, thus enhancing the individual nature of each relationship. Through whatever form the therapy takes, the therapist aims to facilitate positive changes in behaviour and emotional well-being. He or she also aims to help the client to develop an increased sense of self-awareness, and thereby to enhance his or her quality of life. The process may take place in individual or group music therapy sessions.
Benefits of music therapy can include:
- increased participation and engagement
- improved communication and social skills
- enhanced awareness of self and others
- release of frustration in positive ways
- personal satisfaction and a sense of achievement
- decreased tension, anxiety and challenging behaviour
- enjoyment and improved quality of life
Who is Music Therapy For?
Music therapists work with people of all ages who have emotional and / or communication difficulties, usually as a result of:
- cerebral palsy or other physical disabilities
- neurological problems
- sensory impairments
- terminal illness
- mental health problems
- learning difficulties
- autistic spectrum disorders
- a particular emotional need
Examples of how music therapy can help:
Many of our clients have autism – they have difficulty relating to others. Music therapy can help them to discover positive ways of expressing themselves and forming relationships.
Many others we are working with have learning difficulties, for them communication can be very difficult - speech is often an inadequate form of self-expression. The non-verbal medium of music makes sense, even when words do not. Playing and singing can be possible even when expressive verbal communication is limited.