What is Music Therapy?
You may have heard music therapy mentioned on the news, or read about it in a newspaper or magazine. Maybe you’ve seen video clips on social media. But what is it exactly? The term is a little confusing, especially since most things these days are lumped into the ‘therapy’ category (think retail therapy, coffee therapy, etc.). However, music therapy is the clinical use of music to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship. Music therapists are credentialed professionals who have completed an approved music therapy program. It’s an established healthcare profession that requires a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, board certification, and continuing education to maintain that certification. Furthermore, some states require music therapists to become licensed.
Since World War II, music therapy has been an established profession in which music is used within a therapeutic relationship to address the physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs of individuals. After evaluating the strengths and needs of each client, the music therapist provides the music treatment. This can include creating, singing, moving to, and/or listening to music. Also, music therapy provides avenues for communication that can be helpful to those who find it difficult to express themselves.
Music therapy research supports its effectiveness in many areas such as physical rehabilitation and facilitating movement as well as increasing people’s motivation to become engaged in their treatment and recovery. It is also beneficial in providing emotional support for clients and families and providing an outlet for expressing feelings. Music therapists work in places like mental health clinics, hospitals, schools, skilled nursing facilities, hospice agencies, and more.
What does that mean for you as a consumer of music therapy services?
An excellent question! It means I will use music to help you with whatever you need help with. You don’t need to know anything about music at all in order to benefit. My job is to know the music and to make suggestions to clients as to how they might use it themselves outside of our sessions. Clients in my practice are usually struggling with mental health issues, undergoing cancer treatments, or experiencing grief/loss. Research shows that music therapy can help in all those areas and many more.
So How Does Music Therapy Help?
Research has shown that music therapy can provide:
- Nonverbal outlet for emotional expression
- Reduction in anxiety and stress
- Improvement in emotional state and mood
- Empowerment for the client
- Improved physiological changes (better blood pressure, heart rate, etc.)
- Opportunity for sharing and connecting with friends/loved ones
- Increased relaxation
- Safe place for self-expression
- Creative outlet
Why choose music therapy?
That’s a great question! Some people use music therapy services because they respond well to arts-based methods (e.g., drama, art, music). Others have experienced limited success with more traditional therapy methods, and they simply want to try something new to address their problems. Some clients receive it in addition to other therapies, and they find that it enhances their overall recovery. People choose music therapy for a wide variety of reasons.
The Bonny Method of Guided Imagery And Music (GIM) is a specialty area of music therapy. It requires an additional 3-5 years of training, usually post-master’s degree. GIM is a music-centered therapy process used to access the subconscious and lead to self-awareness and healing. It is a technique of visualizing to music in a relaxed state of mind while sharing the imagery experience with a trained guide/therapist. In this relaxed state of mind, the music helps the client safely experience feelings that might seem threatening or difficult to manage. Through music and imagery, GIM allows clients to explore, experience and resolve personal struggles, relationships, and life issues. Because the images are the traveler’s own creations, they are more in tune with the traveler’s subconscious than anything the guide could invent.
If you think music therapy and/or GIM could be helpful to you, I’m happy to answer your questions! Feel free to contact me anytime, and we can talk more.