What is Music Therapy?

We’ve all heard about the many amazing qualities of music, and chances are you’ve even experienced them for yourself. Music has the capacity to provide a non-verbal creative outlet that can benefit individuals both through its production and by its perception. The benefits of music are so tangible and profound that it is used as therapy to provide support and aid to a wide variety of individuals ranging in age, ability, background, and level of musical experience. It has been shown to improve health in many diverse areas, including cognitive functions, motor skills, emotional development, and social skills. It can facilitate interaction, self-awareness, communication, personal development, and self-expression. Therapies can be practiced in a group or one-on-one, and as such can promote both inter- and intra-personal growth. Music therapy takes a holistic approach to healing and improvement and works to address mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects of participants in order to exercise the full potential of music’s health-promoting capacities.

The far-reaching benefits of music therapy mean that it can be used to address a wide variety of needs and is subsequently practiced in a number of diverse institutions. Music therapists can be found in hospitals, prisons, day treatment programs, community programs, long-term care facilities, schools, mental health facilities, substance abuse and addiction centres, and so on. Music therapy has the ability to improve the lives of individuals struggling from emotional trauma, developmental delays, brain injuries, mental health issues, speech and language impairments, and chronic pain. It is used in neonatal care, critical care, obstetrics, oncology, and palliative care. Because of music’s ability to treat the whole person, it is an effective therapy for those who may have complex, multiple, or ongoing concerns.

Therapy can be either active or receptive. Active music therapy involves creating music the instruments, their voice, or other objects, and allows for the patient to express themselves through art and sound. Receptive therapy is where the therapist plays music, and the patient listens while free to draw, move, or meditate. Generally, the types of therapies used is up to the discretion of the therapist.