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Music Therapist

Anna Norris, MT-BC, NMT

A professional music therapist holds a bachelor's degree or higher in music therapy from an American Music Therapy Association (AMTA) approved college and university programs.

Music Therapy is an established health profession in which music is used within a therapeutic relationship to address physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs of individuals. After assessing the strengths and needs of each client, the qualified music therapist provides the indicated treatment including creating, singing, moving to, and/or listening to music. Through musical involvement in the therapeutic context, clients' abilities are strengthened and transferred to other areas of their lives. Music therapy also provides avenues for communication that can be helpful to those who find it difficult to express themselves in words. Research in music therapy supports its effectiveness in many areas such as: overall physical rehabilitation and facilitating movement, increasing people's motivation to become engaged in their treatment, providing emotional support for clients and their families, and providing an outlet for expression of feelings.

Learn more about Music Therapy

music-therapy2While the primary focus of music education is on musical skill acquisition, this is not the case with music therapy. Instead, activities are adapted based on each child's unique response to musical stimuli (through auditory, visual or tactile means) to meet specific, individual, nonmusical goals regarding wellness and development. Musical abilities or interests are not the determining factor, which ensure or deter progress in a music therapy session. Rather, any child who can receive musical stimuli through auditory, visual or tactile means and respond in his own unique way can benefit.

Music therapy can provide enjoyable yet purposeful activities and resources for families to share with their children. Families can learn to use music through meaningful play and nurturing experiences. Music therapy may serve as a positive outlet for interaction, providing fun activities that can include parents, siblings and extended family. Often, music therapy allows a family to see a child in a new light as the child's strengths are manifested in the music therapy environment.

Among the benefits of music therapy:

  • Music stimulates all of the senses and involves the child at many levels. This "multi-modal approach" facilitates many developmental skills.
  • Quality learning and maximum participation occur when children are permitted to experience the joy of play. The medium of music therapy allows this play to occur naturally and frequently.
  • Music is highly motivating, yet it can also have a calming and relaxing effect. Enjoyable music activities are designed to be success-oriented and make children feel better about themselves.
  • Music therapy can help a child manage pain and stressful situations.
  • Music can encourage socialization, self-expression, communication and motor development.
  • Because the brain processes music in both hemispheres, music can stimulate cognitive functioning and may be used for remediation of some speech/language skills.

Since music therapists serve a wide variety of persons with many different types of needs, there is no such thing as an overall typical session. Sessions are designed and music selected based on the individual client's treatment plan. Activities may include singing, movement, playing instruments and listening to music. Children play along with music suggested by the therapist or create and explore in their own ways. Music ability does not determine the potential for success in music therapy, which can be of benefit in a variety of areas.

Let's take, for example, id we are playing the drums and singing "If You're Happy and You Know It," these are the skills a child is processing and developing:

  • Sensory/Regulation: We're processing multiple stimuli, feeling our bodies in space and the relationship between our hands/feet to the rest of our bodies.
  • Gross/Fine Motor: We're moving forward and back in a pulse, using our trunk muscles. We're holding the mallet and making it go up and down to hit the drum.
  • Oral Motor/Language: We're coordinating words and timing, learning phrasing naturally as we sing the melody. We're making connections between words and their meanings.
  • Emotions: We're expressing ourselves nonverbally on an instrument, thinking about ways we can express "happy." We're also developing confidence and self-esteem as we experience success.
  • Attention/Following Directions: We're understanding when it's time to play as the music starts and stops.
  • Motor Planning/Coordination: We're getting ready to tap those two beats at just the right time. We're also planning which hand we'll use and where the mallet will land on the surface of the drum.

We are committed to providing a bridge from therapy to community, offering programs that reach across the gap and provide the steps, support and connection to community activities. Our community bridge consists of five progressive levels, beginning with individual therapy and leading to participatory inclusion in the child's community.

These are the levels of progression:

  • Level A: One-on-one music therapy sessions at CTC.
  • Level B: Music therapy session with one other child at CTC.
  • Level C: Group of three to four children at CTC. Continued music therapy approach with a shift in focus to musical skill acquisition.
  • Level D: Group of four to seven children and siblings in a community environment. The focus is entirely on musical skill acquisition but is supported by a music therapy approach.
  • Level E: Full participation in a community activity.

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