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Canadian Music Therapy

What Music Therapy is…..and is not

Canadian Association for Music Therapy
It's National Music Therapy Month

March being National Music Therapy Month gives just one more opportunity to share this (still) rare, yet growing profession, with other health activists.

Science has caught up with what music therapist’s have been witnessing for many decades – that music can change the way a person feels, thinks and behaves.

Thanks to fMRI machines, the general public has been awakened to the power behind using music in almost every health and educational context.

SO WHAT CAN MUSIC DO FOR US?

Relax the mind and lower stress levels.
Music has a wonderful way of making the mind forget feelings of fatigue by helping individuals de-stress and relax. The right music can reduce cortisol levels, a chemical in the brain that causes you to feel stress in the first place.

Stimulate creativity by increasing blood and oxygen flow to the brain – going from sleepy brain to teachable brain.
Music that brings about feelings of joy has a positive effect on blood vessel functions. Preferred music causes tissue in the inner lining of blood vessels to expand, improving blood flow, whereas music that is perceived as stressful can cause blood vessels to narrow, restricting blood flow.

Inspire feelings – creating a clear passage to long-term memory.
Music helps us feel connected to our feelings, our environment and the people around us—to feel connected to a bigger experience, a memory or a person we love.

Change an individuals’s emotional state
Changing a negative or resistant emotional state is at the root of getting into a positive learning state. Music can help here, and it can also do the exact opposite – the wrong music (tone, style) can distract or even send and individual into a deep funk for some time afterwards.

WHAT DO MUSIC THERAPISTS DO WITH THIS INFORMATION?

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A music therapist’s role is to ensure that music is used under the highest of ethical standards and with the largest body of knowledge. Music, a powerful resource, can do great things but it can also cause harm by bringing up lost or undesired memories. It can strike tones that hurt your ears, and can take individuals into a place of agitation. The music therapist monitors each individual response carefully. These responses in combination with the therapist’s program facilitation direct the client to reach their desired goals and objectives over a set period of time.

A Music Therapist sets the intention of the session based on the client’s goals.
Before entering a music therapy session a music therapist takes time to not only plan a suitable program plan aimed at specific goals, they also address their own personal emotional state and take time to address their client’s long term goals and the immediate goal for the end of the session.  Essentially a music therapist must always remind themselves:  What is my purpose for being here?  What do I want my client to experience?  What is my desired outcome for the end of the session?

A Music Therapist creates and continues to modify an ongoing program for the client.
A music therapy session may have a general framework but it is not something that is ever by rote.  It is in a constant state of improv (musical flux) – moving from one feeling to another – flowing seamlessly depending on where the client needs to go.  The energy in the room is constantly monitored and the therapist uses the responses in that happen in the moment to guide them to the next moment – this takes incredible focus and attention to detail…the subtle details.

Countries throughout the world have national certification programs for music therapists who have graduated with the prescribed educational requirements including supervised clinical work.

All good strategies are best if used with the right intention—music is no different. Sometimes we just need a professional guide. To find a professional (registered, licensed, accredited) music therapist near you contact:

Canada: www.musictherapy.ca
USA: www.musictherapy.org
International: www.musictherapyworld.net

As usual I look forward to hearing from you…leave a comment below or email me direct.

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Jennifer Buchanan, Music TherapistJennifer Buchanan, BMT, MTA is the happy owner of JB Music Therapy and Author of TUNE IN. Our “Music Speaks” Blog aims to inspire you to use music with greater intention and knowledge,  hire us to help, and purchase our products as required.

5 Comments

  • Well said and absolutely true, Jennifer! My wish and hope is that music therapy is soon recognized for all that we provide for our clients. You are an inspiration to all of us!

    • thanks Susan – you know the feeling is mutual.

  • Hey! Nice post, I like that the points are all linked to studies to show the evidence. I was excited, though, to see that the title included what music therapy is not, and am a bit disappointed that it doesn’t really touch on that. I am still a student in music therapy, and have been thinking a lot lately about how I wish it was a bit clearer what music therapy is not, as well as what we are. It may seem like two sides of the same coin, but sometimes I think it is forgotten that “defining music therapy” is also drawing a line between what it is, and what it isn’t..what are we not able and not allowed to do under our certification? I would love to see more about that.

    • Hi Kim, A great comment – thank you for taking the time to write it. You are correct – I did not address much about what music therapy isn’t. It is interesting you have called me on that because as a MT team we have been in discussions since January around “what of our existing work IS NOT music therapy” and asking ourselves if we should graduate these clients. It has brought on a lot of passionate dialogue – as you can imagine. How about I take your comment to the team and perhaps other MT’s and let’s get a broader discussion going – what do you think? Visit our facebook page to see a continuation of this communication. https://www.facebook.com/jbmusictherapyinc

  • Thanks so much for your reply, and I’m glad to see discussions like these are in the works! Excited to see more discussion so thanks for putting it out there, I really appreciate that.

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