What is Music Therapy? How does it work?
Updated: Jun 29, 2020
Music Therapy has started to gain prominence due to increased media coverage in recent years. For instance, the BBC reported how Music Therapy help people recovering from brain injury and more recently how it has supported children with life-limiting conditions during the outbreak.
With all the recent media coverage, why not test how much you really know about Music Therapy? Let's try a game of True or False...
Any musician can practice Music Therapy as long as they are compassionate and are willing to listen.
Music Therapy is about playing lovely calm music to people who are unwell to make them feel happy.
There are multiple approaches of Music Therapy practice.
You can only engage in Music Therapy if you have a clinical diagnosis.
Music has been proven to improve children's self-expression and communication.
Read for the answers? (Drumroll please.....)
1. FALSE - Any musician can practice Music Therapy as long as they are compassionate and are willing to listen.
In the UK, Music Therapists must complete a postgraduate degree in Music Therapy and have completed the required amount of clinical hours before qualifying. The training covers psychodynamic theories, systemic thinking and neurologic theories, as well as music improvisation techniques that are essential in Music Therapy practice. Music Therapists must also continue to meet the Standards of Conduct, Performance and Ethics, and the Standards of Proficiency set by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) post-qualification (1). All UK-based Music Therapists should have an HCPC registration number and can be searched on the HCPC registry under the umbrella term Arts Therapists by their last names (i.e. you can find my registration with my last name 'LUK' under Arts Therapists).
2. FALSE - Music Therapy is about playing lovely calm music to people who are unwell to make them feel happy.
This is one of the most common misconceptions people have about Music Therapy. Music Therapy is not a magic pill that 'makes' people happy. In fact, Music Therapy is about welcoming and expressing all emotions, including anger, sadness, grief, excitement, relief, sometimes even the sense of emptiness. With that said, Music Therapists often try to promote a positive therapeutic experience and our clients may feel a sense of accomplishment after expressing themselves through music.
The music improvised by the children I work with is often a representation of their life experience. Sometimes it's well-organised with lots of energy, but more often, it's chaotic, unstructured and unexpected because that's what life is all about. Music Therapy cannot 'make' your child happy, but it give them a space to learn how to manage changes and express themselves safely and effectively through music.