“You’ve got a Cool-sounding Job, but… I’m Not Sure what it is.”
I understand that there can be a lot of confusion or misconceptions about what music therapy is. That’s why today I’m going to answer three questions I commonly get asked about music therapy. These questions are:
1) What is music therapy?
2) What do you do as a music therapist?
3) How do you use music in therapy?
“What is Music Therapy?”
So, to answer the first question, music therapy is an allied healthcare profession. It is similar to social work, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy. As a matter of fact, music therapists may work on many of the same goals that these other professions work on.
In music therapy, music is the means through which therapy happens. At its core, music therapy brings about transformation through the therapeutic relationship. This therapeutic relationship occurs between the client, as well as the client and the music. I like to say that music serves as a co-therapist in my music therapy work.
“What Do You Do As a Music Therapist?”
Now as for what I do as a music therapist, my focus is on mental health and wellness. It fascinates me how people make meaning and purpose in their lives. As such, I’m especially interested in how people can use music and creativity to improve their quality of life. My professional experiences have allowed me to do this by working with people throughout the lifespan.
On one end of the spectrum, I’ve worked with children and teens in different settings. Some of these include residential treatment, special education, and early childhood education. I also work with infants and their parents in intergenerational music groups.
On the other end of the spectrum, I also work with adults and older adults. This includes people with memory impairment due to dementia, as well as people receiving hospice care. Anxiety, depression, and grief and loss are common issues adults come to me for in seeking help.
Because of my diverse professional experiences, SoundWell Music Therapy focuses on community mental health. With that, I contract with:
- school programs
- mental health organizations
- home health and hospice care companies
- other community social service programs
I also see individuals for counseling services.
“How Do You Use Music in a Music Therapy Session?”
Which leads me to the third question I get asked as a music therapist. That is, how I use music in my work. And the answer is, it all depends. It depends on the person and what they need. As well, it depends on what they’re open to.
For example, I may encourage someone who is feeling anxious and disconnected from their body to hum or do some simple toning. This can help people to feel more grounded in their bodies, while also encouraging them to breath more deeply and slowly. Some people may find vocalizing intimidating, so these activities are intentionally kept simple.
In another instance, a client and I may improvise on some easy-to-play instruments, such as drums or the keyboard. Freely creating music- that is, making up your own music where there are no “right” or “wrong” notes can be liberating. Some people find it helpful if they’re having a hard time identifying their underlying emotions. While others may find that improvising helps them to gain a greater perspective about a situation in their life. Great insights can often happen while improvising.
Learning a Song or How to Play an Instrument
Learning how to play a song or a particular instrument can be therapeutic for some people. For example, someone who has low self-esteem can gain confidence by learning how to play something they want to play. Likewise, a person can improve their attention and focus by learning a motivating song or instrument.
As a music therapist, I’m always assessing for any modifications that might need to be made in order to best ensure their success. This can include making modifications to an instrument, such as by using an
Song-writing is something else that we might do in a music therapy session. Doing this can be a way for a person to create something meaningful that expresses how they feel towards someone or a situation. It can be a song of affirmation that inspires and motivates a person to pursue their goals. Or it can be a song of goodbye, such as in the case of song-writing with someone receiving hospice care.
Recorded music can also be used in a session. Listening to meaningful music can be a powerful way for connecting with others. Sharing a meaningful song also allows you to share something about yourself without being too exposed. It can also be nice to share something about yourself without having to talk, although song discussion can occur as a result.
Playlists and recorded music can shift a person’s mood. This can be beneficial for managing feelings of anxiety or depression. Likewise, listening to playlists or recorded music can inspire and motivate people to take some sort of action in life.
“Got It. You DO Have a Cool Job!”
I hope that today’s post helped clarify what music therapy is and what I do as a music therapist. It really is a unique and powerful healthcare profession. As such, I love being able to use the power of music to support the mental wellness of people at any stage of life.
If you’d like to know more, or if you’d like to schedule something, contact me. Otherwise, I offer a free 30-minute consultation by phone or at my office that you can schedule here. During this consultation, we’ll talk in more detail about your situation and how I might be able to help.