Music plays an important role in our everyday lives. It can be exciting or calming, joyful or poignant, can stir memories and powerfully resonate with our feelings, helping us to express them and to communicate with others.
Music therapy is a psychological therapy that aims to facilitate positive changes in emotional wellbeing and communication in addition to a range of other therapeutic goals. Through the use of the specific qualities and components of music in addition to a variety of other creative and therapeutic techniques, the music therapist supports the client through their development within the therapeutic relationship.
Central to any form of psychological therapy is this aforementioned therapeutic relationship that is established and developed between client and therapist. But it is the unique qualities of music and the versatility of creativity that make this relationship, in a music therapy context, so powerful. Gary Ansdell writes, “Of course, music therapists need to maintain the ethical stance of any professional relationship. But within this, it’s surely helpful to think of how the specifically musical relationship between client and therapist offers something different or unique.” (Ansdell, 2014) Having an experience within a creative arts relationship is a unique experience and is different for every client, it breaks some of the boundaries of other forms of psychological therapies that may not be as accessible for children or young people and offers an engaging, motivating way for them to communicate and expresss the issues and challenges facing them whatever their ability or need.
Through Music Therapy children can build self-confidence and motivation; express and make sense of feelings that are painful or confusing; gain self awareness and an awareness of others; develop social and communication skills; develop cognitive abilities, gross motor skills, fine motor skills and maybe most importantly, engage in communication.
The therapeutic relationship and the therapist’s skills help the client access what is innate within them through careful and considered facilitation. Rogers (1986) wrote, ‘It is that the individual has within himself or herself vast resources for self-understanding, for altering his or her self-concept, attitudes and self-directed behavior – and that these resources can be tapped if only a definable climate of facilitative psychological attitudes can be provided.’ It is the therapist’s job to create this climate and to use all the tools in their bag to facilitate positive change.
Who can benefit?
Children face many difficulties in their continuously developing worlds and continue to face more complex emotional challenges as time moves forward. Some children cope with these difficulties with the help of their parents or school staff, but some children require extra help from a trained therapist.
Because musical participation and response does not depend on the ability to speak, music therapy is a particularly effective clinical intervention for people who have difficulty communicating verbally. For people affected by disability; physical illness; mental health illness or injury, working with music therapists can be life-changing.
Below is a list of people that a creative therapy intervention may help. The list is certainly not exhaustive and if you feel your child or pupil struggles with something that is not mentioned below do not hesitate to contact firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.
Autism Spectrum Disorders (Formerly Asperger’s, Autistic Disorder, & Rett’s)
Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD/ADD)
Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder
Expressive Language Disorder
Dealing with Grief
Loss of sight/Partial sight
Loss of hearing/Partial hearing
Separation Anxiety Disorder
Social communication difficulties
Traumatic Brain Injury
Ansdell, Gary. How Music Helps In Music Therapy And Everyday Life. Farnham: Ashgate Publishing Ltd, 2014. Print.