“[Music Therapy] can be the difference between withdrawal and awareness, between isolation and interaction, between chronic pain and comfort – between demoralization and dignity.” – Barbara Crowe, former president of the National Association of Music Therapy
Music Therapy Activities
Music Therapy activities can range from passive interventions like listening, or lyric analysis, to active interventions like music making, and songwriting. Of course, the therapy population plays a major role in the types of activities that will take place. For example, music therapy activities such as learning about sharing, or shapes, or colors would be appropriate in a special needs educational setting, but not-so-appropriate in a substance-abuse rehabilitation facility. Sessions are structured around client-preferred music no matter the genre, and the songs are chosen based on the goals, needs, and skill set of a given client or group.
The music is oriented toward areas like education, development of social skills, behavior modification, pain management, emotional expression, communication, and physical wellness. More intellectually and musically complex interventions, like songwriting, can be made accessible to all skill levels, and are designed to be challenging while still attainable to participants. Much of the session cannot be pre-planned because the structure and content of the session depends greatly upon the clients' reactions. If a Music Therapist has prepared a day of movement-based activities and up-beat songs for a group of elders, the plan may well change if the group members need a more reflective, or discussion-based group for whatever reason. Flexibility is an important key.
One pillar of the profession is providing clients with success-oriented therapeutic interventions; Music Therapists design activities to highlight the client’s abilities rather than disabilities which promotes positive self-esteem and can be much more motivating. In private lesson instruction with children and adults with special needs, the Music Therapist will break down the learning to smaller, more manageable pieces than the lessons that might be used in a more typical private lesson. These types of activities provide clients with a sense of accomplishment, afford them an opportunity to work towards defined goal areas, and are a fun and enjoyable way to learn, recover, and express.