Music therapy is an evidence-based profession where the planned and creative use of music-based interventions by an IACAT-accredited music therapist supports people to improve, restore or maintain health, functioning and well-being.
Music therapists work in a variety of settings. In educational settings, music therapy facilitates many developmental skills in children and adolescents with learning and intellectual disabilities, sensory impairments, emotional and behavioural disorders, communication deficits and developmental disabilities including Autism.
Every person is uniquely responsive to music despite illness, impairment or disability. People of all ages can benefit from music therapy regardless of musical skill or background, though music therapists may draw on a client’s musical preferences and personal tastes. Music therapy is not music teaching or entertainment.
It stimulates all of the senses and involves the child at many levels, encouraging socialisation, self-expression, communication, and motor development. Music therapy is a supportive intervention within the recovery approach in mental health services and provides an avenue for expressive experiences of mental health difficulties and trauma as well as managing negative symptoms such as depression and anxiety. In hospital and rehabilitation settings music therapy interventions support people with medical symptoms such as pain management and contribute to rehabilitation goals and recovery.
Music therapy is used effectively in neonatal settings, oncology, burns, acquired brain injury and stroke. It is widely employed in older persons services, supporting those living with dementia, promoting positive mood, cognitive function, communication, reminiscence and managing behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia. In palliative care settings, music therapy supports individuals through end of life in providing emotional support, inspiring life review and alleviating symptoms.
In a music therapy session client and therapist create music together. Sessions are usually client-led, interactive and dynamic, however sometimes receptive methods are used. Music therapists incorporate a range of music making methods within and through a therapeutic relationship. These can include instrumental and vocal improvisation, structured music making, singing, listening to music listening, song-writing, lyric discussion, music and relaxation. A client’s musical engagement and development are seen as a reflection of a client’s progress. Based on the age and needs of the client, a session usually lasts between 30 and 60 minutes depending on the attention span and focus of the client. The frequency of the sessions is determined during the initial assessment, which generally runs longer than a typical music therapy session.
Music therapists are trained to Master’s level and are accredited by IACAT. They carry out assessments, plan, implement and evaluate music-based therapy interventions to address specific clinical goals with reference to the most up to date research base. Therapists undertake continuing professional development and regular clinical supervision.