As we have explained before in our blog, music therapy is the use of music interventions by a credentialed professional to achieve individualized goals. So now let’s talk about who can benefit from music therapy. You obviously hear the most about music therapy being used for seriously ill children and their families from us. That is, after all, what our mission focuses on! But music therapy is a lot broader than that. The following populations are the ones music therapy is most commonly used with:
- In hospital settings and palliative care
- Learning difficulties
- Mental health
- Physical disabilities
- And more!
Hospital Settings and Palliative Care
It would be lengthy to go in-depth into each of these areas. So for now the focus will have to be in introducing each area! The first population is the hospital population. We could also talk about this as music therapy used in medical perspectives. A music therapist in a hospital could therefore use particular procedures on a particular range of symptoms.
“Music can be used ‘before, during or after’ medical procedures, for example in the reduction of stress and anxiety, as a means of distraction or as an aid to relaxation.”-Bunt: An Art Beyond Words
Many music therapists work with populations with learning disabilities. Music therapists in this area work in the community visiting patients with learning disabilities, as well as in specialized institutions. Currently, a music therapist working with this population would help the client address difficulties relating to communication and emotional issues, as well as behavior challenges. The primary medium of these sessions is music, and depending on the therapist, it is either improvised or not.
Music therapy also benefits in the area of child and adult mental health. In this case there are several approaches that a music therapist can take depending on his or her inclination. In the various approaches the therapist chooses different activities with the goal of creating positive experiences for the client, allowing him or her to recognize his or her own competence.
Patients with physical disabilities can also benefit from music therapy. Music therapy helps with physical and psychological rehabilitation. In this case, music therapy can be useful in developing coordination and increasing muscular strength and joint motion. Music can also help improve breathing, for its social value, and for emotional release for those with physical disabilities. The use of some instruments can aid in exercising certain parts of the body and for physical ends.
Another common setting for the use of music therapy is in geriatric care. Treating dementia is one of the most common uses of music therapy in this setting. A music therapist can help clients with dementia, especially of the Alzheimer’s type, to allow them to develop a narrative that they would otherwise not be able to develop. While these patients lose faculties such as the ease of verbal communication, “musical functioning often remains intact, and can be the last faculty to deteriorate” (Bunt, p.150). Due to the emotional nature of music, a music therapist can use it to help the patient accept his or her condition and like in other settings, allow for emotional and spiritual support.
Many music therapists today work in the areas that we just discussed. Nevertheless, music therapists also work in: pre-natal care, forensic psychiatry, neurology, addiction management, and prison service. Being such a young profession, music therapy could be expected to strengthen its presence in the areas here discussed and possibly extend to other areas in which music could have a positive impact. For example, a culture-centered approach could help build bridges in communities broken by conflicts. The sky is the limit for what music therapy could do!
Do you have any questions? Is there anything you would want to learn about? Then don’t forget to leave a comment below!
Bunt, L., & Stige, B. (2014). Music therapy: an art beyond words. New York: Routledge.
Gaston, E. T. (1968). Music in therapy. New York: Macmillan.