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What is music therapy?

 
Guitar is a great motivator and helps to develop fine motor coordination.
The guitar is a highly motivating instrument
which also helps develop fine motor coordination.

When people hear the term "music therapy", many different conceptions come to mind.  Some people picture themselves listening to their favorite recording after a long day at the office; this is their music therapy.  Some people imagine a new age experience with soft, ocean sounds and instructions to take deep breaths and relax muscles.  Others perceive an experience where a musician performs to "cheer up" a sick patient.  There are numerous impressions of the term, but none of these examples encompasses the clinical definition of music therapy.

The American Music Therapy Association (AMTA) defines music therapy as “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 allied health profession – as are occupational therapy, physical therapy, and speech therapy – where a trained music therapist structures treatment so that the use of music can address each client’s non-musical goals. Treatment goals may include improved communication, pain alleviation, personal expression, physical rehabilitation, social interaction, enhanced cognition and/or stress management. Assessment, treatment planning, documentation, and continued re-evaluation are all vital components of the music therapy treatment process.

Music therapy can be adapted to fit the needs of a variety of client populations and needs. Music therapists work with clients of all ages and in all stages of life, from prenatal through hospice care. Music therapists work within school settings, nursing homes, hospitals, rehabilitation facilities, psychiatric facilities, early childhood centers, substance abuse programs, correctional facilities, halfway houses, and private practice.  The application of music therapy within these diverse populations and environments will be further examined in future articles.

For futher information: Please contact the author with any specific questions or concepts you would like to see addressed in coming features.

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