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Are “Music Therapy” Videos on YouTube Actually Music Therapy?

If you search “music therapy” on YouTube you will get several great videos of music therapists working with patients. Some videos you will find will be with kids, some with adults, and some with older people. You will find videos in hospitals, in clinics, and some others in the homes of patients. You will also see videos that lead you to music supposed to have a healing or relaxing effect. These videos sometimes do not have the term “music therapy” in the title but appear in the same results page. Nevertheless, are “music therapy” videos on YouTube actually music therapy? Do they actually accomplish what they claim, i.e. relaxation and healing? And if they do does that make them music therapy?

Are music therapy videos music therapy?

My first impulse is to say that “music therapy” videos are NOT music therapy. There is no music therapist involved in the prescription and implementation of the music intervention. The standard definition of music therapy states that music therapy is the use of music “by a credentialed professional.” That immediately rules out these videos as music therapy.
Why is a music therapist even necessary in order to have music therapy? Let us think of it in terms of the “therapy” part of the name before the “music” part. Therapy by itself happens with a psychologist or credentialed therapist. If we were to find a YouTube video that said “Therapy: Listen to This to Have a Better Life” we might be able to learn something and perhaps it does help us in a way, but we would not mistake that for therapy. That is because therapy is done by somebody who has the qualities necessary and has studied and been credentialed.
The term “therapeia,” which is Greek, means the human qualities of caring, attending and serving. Well, a video cannot attend or care for somebody else. It can have an impact but it does not have the interaction of an actual therapist. A therapist is able to evaluate somebody’s needs and prescribe what is appropriate to address the issue.

Why are these videos called music therapy videos?

So why do these videos claim to be music therapy? The challenge with music therapy is that music is an elusive and powerful entity that almost has a life of its own. Music by itself can and does have a profound impact on us, whether it is through a music therapist or not. These videos then claim to have a magical effect on us because of this nature of music. By claiming something they are not they hope to get more likes and views. Some songs do seem to have a bigger impact than others, but that does not make up for the fact that no music therapist prescribed them. For example, these songs are claimed to lower heart rate, encourage relaxation, etc. Well, what if somebody does not need their heart rate to be slower?  What if the person has much deeper needs? Then a simple song is not going to be enough to have a true impact.

Are these songs good for anything?

A music therapist might prescribe some of these songs for relaxation and other interventions. In that case this music would become part of music therapy. Nevertheless, in that case the songs are PART of music therapy, not the music therapy itself. If you want calm and soothing music these videos might be what you are looking for. If you are looking for an actual solution to what you are experiencing then these videos will be far from meeting your needs.

Should I see an actual music therapist?

If you suffer from stress and anxiety and you know that music helps you relax, try meeting with a music therapist to find out what is the best use of music for you. A music therapist will know more about how music and the mind work and how you can use music more efficiently. They might actually prescribe or play songs for you that are similar to “music therapy videos.” Or they might work with you using a completely different activity. Regardless, a music therapist is a trained professional and he or she can help you work on whatever goals you might have.

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L. Samuel Gracida

L. Samuel Gracida

Samuel is Sam's Fans Operating Director and our primary blogger!

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