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The Future of Music Therapy

When I planned out the #caseformusictherapy blog series who knew that when I got to the month I was to discuss the ‘future of music therapy’ it would land right in the middle of the future already happening – around the entire globe.

What I was planning to address this month was the development of music therapy regulation throughout the world and the creation of more jobs in medical, school and community healthcare settings.  I was going to discuss how music therapy seems to be shifting into a master’s entry profession and that many more people are considering music therapy as a career.

I was also going to suggest an important next step would be to get even more music therapists speaking at policy tables to help formulate best care practices for music therapists in settings like palliative care, dementia care, and mental health.

All of this is absolutely still relevant but a NEW future for music therapy has become very apparent over the last several weeks – the need for virtual music therapy – during a pandemic…..and beyond.

Here is our story. Over the course of one weekend in March 2020 we went from seeing 100% of our clients in-person to 25% online and have been steadily growing virtually ever since.

Within one week we moved as far as we could to:

  • Connect with all our clients
  • Set up our home offices
  • Test the effectiveness of sound (the lag time needed to be addressed)
  • Select the best platforms
  • Establish proper consents and procedures
  • Support one another during our initial trial sessions and;
  • Ensure the safety of our clients

It was quite the undertaking…..but we did it.

Today our goal is to offer our online music therapy services safely and effectively. We are aware of the risks of virtual care and acknowledge that no online tool is ever completely secure. We also know the future of music therapy is here.

It also became quickly apparent that it was not perfect.  For a profession based in relationship there is no denying that a screen is a barrier.  The sound lag is big.  The wifi connections are far from perfect. The ability to see and feel everything going on is difficult – but the established therapeutic relationship seemed to still prevail and many sessions were deemed successful by the clients themselves.

What also helped us that we learned that in an online environment it is not only important for us to stay within our scope of practice but in our scope of comfort. We are quite certain the list will change but for now here are a few examples of what we feel we CAN address during online sessions.

  • Purposeful playlist creation for mood support
  • Active listening to familiar and preferred songs to evoke positive mood states
  • Music interactions to support social engagement
  • Songwriting for self-expression
  • Music and movement exercises for rehabilitation
  • Guided relaxation to ease anxiety and stress
  • Counselling to support you through life transitions

Being a part of the future in real-time means a lot of testing in the moment. Just like in-person therapy each intervention is assessed to ensure maximum benefit and safety for the client.

The future has added convenience and flexibility of scheduling face-to-face meetings with the therapist no matter where the client or patient resides whether they are traveling, have mobility issues or live outside the regular service area.

There is no doubt this is the future – but I feel there is even more to come.

Another ‘future’ element for music therapy is to continue with but also move beyond the treatment of disease and disorder to preventative health. The future of music therapy includes a wellness model that follows individuals throughout their lifespan and their everchanging needs.

This future enables music therapists to more actively engage services at the corporate wellness level.  There are very few activities and experiences that more people have in common than with music. When music therapy sessions and lunch and learns are facilitated by a music therapist, music can easily address core issues like diversity, mental wellness, and productivity concerns as efficiently and effectively as other resources.

So taking this all into account: education, regulation, online services, and corporate wellness the future definitely looks bright for the music therapists of the future (and now).