So I get this question ALL THE TIME. Basically anyone who meets me asks for an explanation of what exactly I do as a music therapist. I’ve found that most people think that we are music teachers or therapists who like to turn on music during their sessions.
As a music therapist, I work with a variety of clientele, tailoring my activities to reach individualized non-musical goals. By that I mean social skills, motor skills, behavior challenges, speech, and more. What we don’t do is teach a person to play an instrument, but what we do use singing, instruments, and games…..I have yet to meet a person who does not like at least one form of music.
Because music is such an integral part of our society, incorporating a person’s music tastes allows them to not always feel like they are “working” in a therapy session. Instead, they feel we are playing and having a great time….which we do!An excellent example is of an older adult I worked with at a rehabilitation hospital. The physical therapists worked with this adult to stretch and extend her arms by doing 30 repetitions at a time. This got very tiresome and the adult was not very motivated to participate in the physical therapy sessions. Bringing her into music therapy, I was able to incorporate her favorite music (Elvis) working on the same physical therapy requirements. As I played Elvis on my guitar, an assistant helped her play a drum that was extended far from her body. This adult had a great time helping me play her Elvis songs, and said afterwards that she didn’t realize she was working her arms out until after our session when she was a bit sore!
Music therapy takes a different form with each person’s unique gifts and challenges. The wonderful thing about my profession is that there’s always a new challenge but also the amazing knowledge that I am using my God-given gifts to bless others.