Humming our inner harmony and striking therapeutic chords with music therapy

One of my forms of self-care and relaxation is to read great books.  My favorite author, Jodi Picoult, just came out with an amazing new book called “Sing You Home” which focuses on a music therapist and her journey to find her true identity.  As difficult as it was to tear myself away from this book, I was enthralled by the character Zoe’s profession and realized that music therapy is a channel of therapeutic healing of which I am curious to increase my experience and knowledge.  As I follow Zoe’s path and am honored to be able to peek into the parallel healing path of her client’s journeys, I was inspired today to learn a bit more about music therapy and to see how it impacts my local therapeutic community.

So what exactly is music therapy?  According to the American Music Therapy Association, “music therapy is the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program.”  Further, interventions incorporating music therapy can help promote wellness, manage stress, alleviate pain, express feelings, enhance memory, improve communication, and promote physical rehabilitation, among other benefits.  These positive effects are also goals that I infiltrate into my own therapeutic philosophy; so what makes music therapy so different from talk therapy?  Or play therapy?

To answer this question, we do not need to delve into clinical jargon.  As I do with many therapeutic tactics, I encourage us both to think about ways that music has impacted our lives in spiritual, emotional, cognitive, philosophical, and even physical ways (come on, you know that you cannot help but dance along to some of your very favorite music!).  Personally, when I am feeling low or anxious, I know that I can turn on my favorite music artist and I will automatically be transformed into a different emotional sphere.  Or, when I am looking to relax or help myself fall asleep, I can play soundtracks of nature music and my brain is calm and soothed.  The same goes for amping myself up to go out for a run: I put on some upbeat tunes and I am ready to go.

Music therapy is a type of “alternative therapy” that can effectively connect with clients who may be looking for a different form of therapeutic healing.  This can often be found in unique populations, specifically children, the elderly, and those that are in hospitals and healing from various health issues.  Music therapy incorporates clinical research from a variety of facets to create the most effective interventions for clients, correlating data with biomusicology, music theory, psychoacoustics, and comparative musicology to facilitate a therapeutic experience.  As the therapist plays a musical instrument and often helps the client play the instrument as well, the music experience helps to enhance cognitive and motor skills, aids in self-reported increase in quality of life, facilitates a diverse awareness of social skill sets, and deepens a personal and spiritual self.  This holistic approach to therapy, infiltrating person-centered, talk, emotional, and musical aspects to therapeutic healing can  comprehensively relate to each and every one of us in some capacity.

Locally, I uncovered the Metro Music Therapy Center, who note that music therapy is very effective with specific populations such as those affected by Alzheimer’s, forms of autism, cerebral palsy, Parkinson’s disease, down syndrome, and those who have suffered strokes.  The Children’s Hospital has a music therapy program in which children sing, play instruments, laugh, and self-soothe with the aid of music therapists because “music stimulates all of the senses and can increase self-awareness and confidence.”  It can get us out of our heads and into our bodies.  In addition, the Colorado Association for Music Therapy creates a community for dozens of local music therapists to share information, receive support, and connect through shared passion.

It is wonderful to find all of these local resources that I can pass on to clients who might benefit from music therapy.  As therapeutic healing knows no limits and is always eager to explore new avenues, it is of benefit to me and my colleagues to develop relationships with music therapists so that we can provide a diverse and comprehensive range of services to clients with a diverse range of needs.

One of my favorite aspects of my profession, and one of the factors that assures me that I will find energy in my career for many years to come is that there is continually more to learn as we delve into new avenues of research and clinical application every day.  Along with music therapy, there is a world of dance therapy, speech therapy, equine therapy, and other alternative forms of therapeutic touch that change lives of thousands of people daily.  The need for counseling and therapy is only increasing and with so many forms that can help us connect with ourselves and others, I know that we can all find inner peace.