What is Music Therapy?

According to the American Music Therapy Association:
Music Therapy is the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program.
Music Therapy is an established health profession in which music is used within a therapeutic relationship to address physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs of individuals. After assessing the strengths and needs of each client, the qualified music therapist provides the indicated treatment including creating, singing, moving to, and/or listening to music. Through musical involvement in the therapeutic context, clients’ abilities are strengthened and transferred to other areas of their lives. Music therapy also provides avenues for communication that can be helpful to those who find it difficult to express themselves in words. Research in music therapy supports its effectiveness in many areas such as: overall physical rehabilitation and facilitating movement, increasing people’s motivation to become engaged in their treatment, providing emotional support for clients and their families, and providing an outlet for expression of feelings.
One of the main keys to successful therapy for your child is that it be enjoyable. Kids generally love music, so music therapy will most likely be seen as fun by your child, enabling complete cooperation.

Treble clefYou’ve met my daughter, Molly, in previous posts. Over the next several weeks, I’ll be telling you how different therapies have helped Molly over the years.

Molly had music therapy long before she had any type of diagnosis. At three, she was very barely speaking, couldn’t follow directions given to a group, had very low fine muscle tone and fine motor skills and had only mediocre balance for her age. We had suspected that she had some hearing issues, but all the tests were coming back within normal range. Some areas I’ve seen progress in m own daughter due to music therapy:

  • MaraccasConcentration – Keeping a beat, be it by clapping, nodding or hitting a drum is already a task for a child that needs to concentrate on hearing.
  • Following directions – You want to follow directions when you’re having so much fun, so you’re willing to work hard!
  • Selective hearing – Picking out an instrument to follow when listening to a piece of music makes working at hearing fun.
  • Speech – While Molly barely spoke words, she would sing just about anything. Developing her exposure to different types of music gave her a way of expressing herself and communicating.
  • Fine motor skills – To make the sounds she wanted to make, to imitate her beloved music therapist, required control. Examples: to make the maracas make a lot of noise or only a little, or to repeat note series on a small-keyed keyboard.
  • Self esteem – A child that “can’t” do other behaviors normal for those around her may start to have issues with low self esteem. When Molly saw that she had found something she CAN do, she felt special. It gave her a special smile and a skill she could show off to her easily-speaking classmates in nursery school.

We’re now six years down the road and Molly still loves music. She has grown to understand how she responds to different types of music, as well. Just a few weeks ago, I exclaimed to her, “Molly, your room looks great! You cleaned it up all by yourself, I’m so proud!” “No Mommy,” she said, grinning. “I didn’t clean it by myself. Mozart helped me!”

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