Music Therapy vs. Talk Therapy
Recently one of my clients said to me, “You know, I can sit at home and listen to music by myself. But it’s so much better when I do that here in your office with you.” So let’s unpack that a little bit and learn what makes music therapy different from simply listening to music– and what sets it apart from traditional ‘talk’ therapy.
EDUCATION AND TRAINING
As a board certified music therapist, I’m highly educated and extensively trained in understanding music and how it affects us emotionally, physiologically, mentally, and spiritually. Because of my in-depth knowledge of music, I know how to use it to best address your individual needs and concerns. I also have 20+ years of experience working in a variety of different settings with a wide range of clients. If it helps, you can think of me as a musician and a therapist rolled into one. Music therapy sessions are generally a mixture of talking and playing/listening to music. How much we do of those things depends on the client and what they need that day. If you’re not a musician or haven’t played an instrument since your days in middle school band (if ever!) no worries! Remember, I’m the trained musician here. That’s my part of the job.
What on earth does my office have to do with anything? It can be difficult to allow yourself to feel vulnerable and share your innermost thoughts and feelings with someone you barely know. I understand that. That’s why I’ve tried to create a comfortable, welcoming office space for music therapy sessions. There is a spiritual concept called ‘holding space.’ That simply means an environment has been created where someone can freely experience their emotions in a safe and non-judgmental way. I’ve attempted to do that through making my office feel more like a home. I also consciously try to convey to my clients a sense of acceptance and unconditional positive regard. Additionally, my office doesn’t have the distractions you might encounter while listening to music in your own home. You’ll be able to focus exclusively to what we’re doing musically in my office in ways that you wouldn’t be able to while listening to music on your own at home.
We can all listen to and enjoy music by ourselves. I love sitting and listening to the whole thing all at once when one of my favorite music groups releases a new album. There’s nothing wrong with that at all! But think about this– isn’t it a better and richer experience when you can listen with another fan of that same group? You can point out things you hear or lyrics you like. Or you can make statements like “wow, I can’t wait to see them perform that in concert!” Suddenly, it becomes deeper and more meaningful because you’ve shared that experience with someone else who also ‘gets’ it. That’s part of what makes music therapy so impactful– it’s a shared experience. We can discuss the music together and talk about what we hear, how it makes us feel, the memories it evokes, the emotions it stirs up. It creates a connection and an understanding. Also, there are times when we don’t have the words to express how we feel, but music can. This is especially true for those times when I play instruments with my clients. Sometimes, beating on a drum is the best expression!
So if you’re curious about how music therapy might be able to help you, feel free to contact me. I’m always happy to answer questions!