FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Here are some of the most common questions about music therapy. It’s normal and encouraged for parents and caregivers to ask questions when choosing to work with a board-certified Music Therapist. If your question isn't answered here, please get in touch using the contact information on the website.
If you'd like to learn more about the music therapist behind Sound Support, click here!
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."
Simply put, Music Therapy uses music to address non-musical goals. These often include, but are not limited to:
physical needs, both gross and fine motor
emotional needs such as regulation, developing coping skills, and understanding emotions
cognitive needs such as attention, memory, and executive function
social needs such as communication (both expressive or receptive) and social skills
Board certified music therapists assess the strengths and needs of each client and establish measurable and specific goals and objectives to address areas of need. The music therapist uses aspects of music such as singing, song writing, moving, or listening to music to help client’s meet their goals and objectives, and to transfer these skills into other areas of their life.
WHAT QUALIFICATIONS DOES A MUSIC THERAPIST HAVE?
Music Therapists are required to have at least a bachelor’s degree (or higher) in music therapy, which includes 1200 hours of clinical training
Music Therapy Degrees require a well-rounded base of knowledge in psychology, medicine, and music.
Music Therapists are required to hold the MT-BC (board certification) through the Certification Board for Music Therapists, which ensures competent practice and required continuing education. Some states also require licensure for board-certified music therapists
Music Therapy is an evidence-based health profession, with a strong research foundation
Learn more about the qualifications of a music therapist on the AMTA website
IS THERE RESEARCH TO SUPPORT MUSIC THERAPY?
While there are countless anecdotal stories about how powerful music can be, there is also data and science to back up the effectiveness of music therapy. There are two journals that regularly publish research: the Journal of Music Therapy which focuses on current research and theory, and Music Therapy Perspectives, which appeals to readers within and outside of the profession with a focus on music therapy practice, academics, and administration. Click here to learn more about research in music therapy.
WHAT DO MUSIC THERAPISTS DO?
Music Therapists work with an array of people in different settings and with different needs. Here are just a few things you might see Music Therapists do in sessions:
Using the natural structure of music to support children who have autism to improve communication/conversation capabilities with call and response songs
Using music as a tool to recall memories in work with older adults to lessen the effects of dementia
Working with hospitalized patients to reduce pain through playing preferred music that gives the patient something positive to focus on
Working with people who have Parkinson’s disease to improve motor function by using the natural rhythm of music to help their body entrain to the beat
Using songwriting, recording, or lyric analysis while working with an individual in hospice/palliative care to cope and process their feelings around illness/death
Working in an inpatient or outpatient mental health setting to develop coping skills, process emotions, and improve relationships using songwriting, lyric analysis, or improvisation on instruments to express feelings without words
Working with children with developmental disabilities to improve attention and focus by using the structure and components of music (beat, melody, harmony, rhythm, style, etc.)
WHAT HAPPENS IN A MUSIC THERAPY SESSION?
The answer to this question varies greatly on the individual and the goals being supported. Some interventions that are facilitated in a music therapy session to support an individual with developmental disabilities might be:
Playing instruments can be used to address gross or fine motor skills- improving range of motion by playing drums, or finger strength or isolation by playing adapted guitar or piano).
Instrument play can also be used to increase attention and focus by following directions while playing instruments.
Instrument play can help encourage communication by giving clients an opportunity to choose and play a preferred instrument
Writing songs can be used to aide in emotional expression, to develop coping skills, processing change, and improving self esteem just to name a few things.
People naturally entrain to a steady beat, which can be provided and adapted in the moment during a session unlike with recorded music.
Dance is a motivating way to improve gross and fine motor skills, follow directions, express oneself, and practice nonverbal social cues, such as body language and proximity
So much more! Music therapists develop interventions based on individual so there are many unique ways that music therapy interventions and experiences can be facilitated
DO I HAVE TO KNOW HOW TO PLAY MUSIC TO DO MUSIC THERAPY?
The easy answer to this question is... not at all! Individuals who participate in music therapy only need to enjoy, appreciate, and respond positively to music. The music therapist has extensive musical training that is used to facilitate interventions using elements of music that the individual responds to in the moment. It is not uncommon for music therapists to teach instruments in adapted lessons, but the purpose of music therapy is not primarily to learn how to play an instrument. Depending on the individual's needs, they may learn an instrument as a secondary goal (playing piano or guitar for fine motor skills is a common example) but anyone who participates in music therapy does not need any formal music training at all!