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There's More to Music Therapy Than Just Being Therapeutic
By Kyle, MA, MT-BC
5/7/2012 2:43:00 PM  

As a music therapist, I have been bombarded for years with the question, “What is music therapy?” And after my typical 30-second speech, the other person often replies with something like, “I do that all the time, when I play music when I clean or when I rock out to my favorite song in the car. That is MY music therapy.” At that point I can try to educate further, or I can just sigh and walk away letting them believe what they want to believe. Most often I do the latter. Trying to convince someone to change their way of thinking is nearly impossible in most cases, unless the person is truly interested in learning.

So that gets me to my point of what makes music therapy--or any therapy for that matter--a therapy. I practice music therapy and I also do recreational music which, in my opinion, is not therapy. Yes, recreational music done by a music therapist is not therapy, even though it can be therapeutic.

Some kind of training must be involved. I don’t even want to distinguish between training at a degree program, a weekend workshop or an online course. The issue gets into several grey areas, and that is one of them. But there needs to be some training involved. Something can be therapeutic, but without some kind of training by the practitioner, it cannot be a therapy. As an example, I could rub someone’s shoulders and that can be therapeutic to the person (and feel pretty darn good!), but I don’t have the training of a massage therapist and would never claim to be doing massage therapy on this person. In other words, the “therapist” must be qualified.

And there should be research involved in a therapy. The kind of research (quantitative, qualitative, historical) is not the issue here, just that research backing up what the practitioner is doing should be out there. It helps if the research is in a refereed journal or the like, but, again, grey area. Anecdotal reports from people about the effectiveness of this or that is helpful, but it should only be the start of one’s investigation. Is there research backing up the approach?

And the therapy should follow the therapeutic process. In music therapy this basic process is: assessment, program planning, implementation of intervention, and documentation/evaluation of the effectiveness of that intervention. By comparison, the American Physical Therapy Association lists the steps as: evaluation, plan of care, intervention, and reexamination. And I am sure occupational therapists and speech-language pathologists have similar steps in their therapy process. Without this there is no way to know where the person was before the intervention, and it makes it very hard to tell if the intervention was helpful.

In my recreational music work (i.e., with a choir of 55 individuals with developmental disabilities), the music is the focus, not the non-musical goals. Also, I do not do follow the therapeutic process mentioned above which is why I don’t consider my work there to be music therapy even though it is done by a board certified music therapist. It can be therapeutic to the choir members, but it is not music therapy.

There are a lot of “therapies” out there, more than I can name. My questions are, is there training involved, is there research to back it up and does it follow the therapeutic process? These, I am sure, are not the only things that can differentiate. I encourage you to try to think of others, but I think it is important to differentiate - just because something is therapeutic doesn’t make it a therapy.

Learn more about West Music Music Therapy Services.

Tags: Misconceptions of Music Therapy, Music Therapy, Essence of Music Therapy, Myths About Music Therapy, Recreational Music vs Music Therapy
Categories: Music Therapy
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Considerations When Choosing a Music Therapy Internship
By Kyle, MA, MT-BC
3/2/2011 12:36:00 PM  

With the recent acceptance of West Music as a National Roster internship, I began thinking about what things music therapy students need to think about when choosing an internship site. Here are just a few.

One consideration is location. Many students will pick a site because they have family members nearby or they want, for example, to be in a certain climate or near mountains. When looking at the internship itself a student must obviously look at how long the facility has been an internship site, how long the Internship Director has been supervising interns, and the reputation of the internship. Other considerations include the director’s supervision style and philosophy of training interns. One’s professor should be able to answer these questions and steer their students in the right direction.

Another consideration is the population served at the internship. A student may feel that they should work with populations in their internship that they want to work with in their career. However, this is not always the most important consideration. Tastes change as one gains experience in the field. I, myself, did my internship with geriatrics. And, although I still love working with geriatric individuals, I have found several populations I enjoy just as much. One should, however, pick a population they feel at least somewhat enthusiastic about because they may be working very intensely with them for about six months.

A student should also ask themselves how many populations they want to work with. If a student would like to work with one or two populations then possibly a nursing home would be a good choice. If a student would like to work with several different populations then a hospital or private practice internship would be beneficial. The length of time seeing individuals, and, therefore, the rapport developed between the intern and their clients is also important. In a facility like a hospital, a music therapy intern may be only able to see someone two or three times. In a nursing home there is a good chance the intern would be able to see the same residents for the duration of the internship. This allows for a very strong relationship to develop between the intern and the client that one usually cannot develop from only a handful of visits.

For more information on Music Therapy at West Music, including internships, please visit the Music Therapy website. 

Tags: music therapy internship, internship sites, internship, internship tips, music therapy internship tips
Categories: Music Therapy
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