About music therapy

Music therapy can help people of all ages and abilities. It is often used when a person's communication skills are limited or when they have difficulty engaging in a verbal therapy. Some examples of the types of difficulties which can benefit are listed below:

Communication difficulties, due to:

• Autistic Spectrum Condition
• Speech and language disorders
• Developmental delay
• Learning disability
• Physical disability
• Elective mutism
• Neurological conditions
• Brain Injury
• Dementia

Emotional Difficulties such as low self-esteem or anger, due to:

• Marital breakdown,
• Bereavement
• Attachment difficulties
• Domestic violence
• Disability
• Trauma

Other reasons why people have found music therapy to be beneficial are:

• Behavioural problems, such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
• Mental health problems
• Terminal illness
• Stress

Difficulties such as those listed above rarely occur in isolation and music therapists draw on their awareness of the client’s background, and their knowledge of psychological and psychodynamic theories to respond to and work with the client appropriately.

Music therapy is also used by people who are able to communicate freely but are interested in personal growth and self-discovery. Clients can use music and sound to explore their emotions, discover new insights and develop a greater understanding of how they relate to the world.

What does music therapy Involve?

Music therapy uses spontaneous music making as a means of communication within a therapeutic relationship. Both the client and the therapist are generally involved in playing the instruments, using their voices, and listening. No previous musical knowledge or skills are required and no teaching is involved as the instruments are chosen for their accessibility and ease of use. There is a wide range of instruments available, ranging from large drums and xylophones to small hand-held instruments as well as a guitar and/or piano.

The therapist may also respond verbally to the client’s expressions, noticing and linking themes that have emerged during the sessions. The extent of verbal input depends on the client’s level of awareness, and on the focus of the work.

One-to-one music therapy

One-to-one music therapy is client-led, meaning that the therapist allows space and time for the client to develop their own way of interacting with the sounds and the setting. The therapist responds to the client’s musical expressions and builds a musical framework within which they can explore and discover new ways of relating to themselves, to the music therapist and to their surroundings. This supportive approach allows the client’s confidence to grow and a trusting relationship to form.

Group music therapy

Group music therapy involves groups of up to six clients, depending on their level of need. It is particularly beneficial to clients who are socially isolated or those who find it difficult to communicate with peers. Where clients attend a group due to a shared difficulty such as low self-esteem, dementia, or a learning disability, a strong sense of emotional support can develop. The emphasis on non-verbal musical expression in a non-judgmental group setting encourages clients to listen to one-another and develop an awareness of themselves in relation to others. There is also the opportunity to address new insights within the group through improvisation and verbal discussion. Group work commonly increases the clients’ self-esteem and brings an enhanced sense of well-being to the group as a whole, as well as the individual.

Parent/child music therapy

Parent/child music therapy provides a unique space where parents/carers and children can relate to each other in new ways. It is a safe, containing environment in which patterns and themes in relationships can be explored with a creative, non-verbal focus. This can have a lasting positive impact on the relationship.

What are the main benefits of music therapy?

• Increased motivation to communicate
• Increased awareness of self and others
• Improved communication and social skills
• Reduced tension, anxiety and challenging behaviour
• Sense of satisfaction and achievement
• Increased self-esteem
• Greater self-acceptance
• Improved concentration
• Increased sense of well-being

See also

Music Therapy in Schools
Music Therapy and Autism
Music Therapy in Dementia Care
Music Therapy in Mental Health
Music Therapy in other healthcare settings