Music Therapy

Health & Wellness
Last Updated Jul 29, 2020
Health & Wellness

What is Music Therapy?

Music therapy is the planned and creative use of music (sound, rhythm, melody and harmony) to attain health and wellbeing. It focuses on meeting therapeutic aims which distinguishes it from musical entertainment or music education and aims to facilitate and promote certain therapeutic objectives such as communication, expression, learning, relationships and self organisation.

In one way or another, we all have the ability to respond to music, which usually remains unaffected by illness, injury and disability. This allows music to become a tool of self-expression to those who would usually find communication with others and the outside world difficult.

Whilst the goals of the music therapy are specific to each individual or group the approach generally aims to develop and encourage the clients with:

  • Social skills, such as sharing and listening to others;
  • Self-expression, through use of vocal and/or musical interaction with the therapist;
  • Self esteem, confidence and psycho-social growth
  • Speech, language and communication e.g. vocalisations that lead meaningful communications through imitation, listening and the experience of being heard.

What Happens in a Music Therapy Session?

People of any age or ability may benefit from a music therapy programme regardless of musical skill or background as no previous musical experience or ability is required. Sessions involve various guided musical applications selected according to needs, goals, planned programming and client preferences. These include:

  • Live/recorded music listening/singing
  • Music relaxation and guided imagery techniques
  • Song writing/music composition
  • Song/lyric writing
  • Music improvisation
  • Instrument playing
  • Music and movement
  • Listening and song sharing
  • Performance
  • Music appreciation

Your therapist will aim to offer the above in the client's place of preference, whether it be at home alone, at private practice consulting rooms for individuals or small groups or somewhere more public in a group. Music therapists will spend time also with the client, their friends and family to:

  • Decide what sort of music would be most beneficial in the session
  • Outline the goals of the music therapy sessions
  • Explore and explain the different techniques that may be used.

In time, a relationship is fostered between the client and the therapist, allowing trust to come in through a shared love of music in the session. And as the relationship and trust grows, so too does the client physically, emotionally, cognitively, socially and spiritually. The music therapist may also address the needs of family, carers and/or friends of the primary client.

With children, some therapists may also choose to use a ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ song and potentially some well-known nursery rhymes to get the child to engage with them.

Ailments/Conditions Music Therapy Can Help With

Music therapy may be used to relieve a number of ailments and injuries, including:

  • Chronic pain or stress management
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Depression/anxiety/bi-polar  
  • Insomnia
  • Speech, language and communication issues
  • Movement disabilities
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Stroke
  • Traumatic injury
  • Autism spectrum disorders

It may also be used successfully in conjunction with other programmes such as pain management, speech and cognition therapy, traditional psychotherapy and palliative care and is equally beneficial for people who are wanting to explore their personal growth and development.

What Training/Qualifications are needed to become a RMT?

To qualify as a Registered Music Therapist (RMT), you must complete one of the accredited courses available to you currently at four universities in Australia recognized by the National Education Board.

The University of Melbourne, Western Sydney and Queensland all also offer research Masters and PhD degrees in addition to the Master by Coursework to those looking to take up clinical research.
Advanced training for RMTs is offered also by the University of Melbourne (in conjunction with The Music and Imagery Association of Australia Inc).

Additional information

If you are interested in finding out more on how Music Therapy could help you or a loved one, contact a registered Music Therapist for more information.

Originally published on Apr 30, 2010

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