Do you need to be a musician to participate in and benefit from Music Therapy?
ANYONE can participate in, and benefit from Music Therapy, regardless of musical experience. There is no training, prior knowledge, or experience required to partake in music therapy.
What training does a Music Therapist have?
Music Therapists have…
- A 4-year Bachelor of Music Therapy from a recognized university
- Must complete a 1000-hour internship, under an experienced music therapist/supervisor
- Must pass an exam through the Certification Board for Music Therapists
- Must participate in continuing education, and keep up-to-date with the most current evidence-based research
Why haven’t I heard about Music Therapy before?
Music therapy is a relatively new profession in Canada. It began in an unofficial capacity in World War I and II when community musicians went to military hospitals around the country to play for veterans suffering from both physical and emotional traumas. The veteran’s physical and emotional response to music led doctors and nurses to request hiring of musicians by the hospital. It was soon evident that the musicians needed some prior training before playing in hospitals so they could properly handle client’s medical and therapeutic needs. The demand grew for a music therapy curriculum. Current research on the mechanics of music and the brain are gaining international attention and bringing the areas of music therapy and music in medicine into public consciousness.
How is a Music Therapist different from a person who is hired to play music for entertainment?
Though surely beneficial, musical entertainment is NOT considered Music Therapy because the activity is not facilitated by an accredited Music Therapist. Why is the MTA involvement so important? An MTA will have a therapeutic intent with the activity being carried out. The activity, intervention, and techniques used are done to reach goals specific to the individual or group. The MTA’s observation, involvement, and support all works to closely monitor and record how the individuals respond to the music and intervention. Paying attention to any changes or progress during these musical activities gives MTA the tools to work with in modify and adapting future activities to keep meeting the needs and goals of the individuals.
Can music ever be harmful to clients?
Contrary to popular belief, music CAN present harm to clients, which is why the presence of the therapist is so important in Music Therapy. They are mindful and aware of:
Overstimulation – For example, a Music Therapist who works in Neonatal Intensive Care Units very careful and intentional about the sound stimulus they create to support the infant’s ability to thrive. When using the voice, the therapist will use a soft, fluid tone that has a limited pitch range, and a simple melody. If they are using recorded music or the recorded voice of the infant’s mother, they will ensure that the volume level is at an appropriate amount for the infant so as not to cause damage to their hearing. They also closely monitor the physiological and behavioral indicators for subtle signs of infant distress and respond as needed.
Memory Trigger – Music is second only to smell for its ability to trigger memories. Clinically, there are certain situations where this can be incredibly powerful, as in cases where dementia is involved, and a well-known song creates a moment of lucidity. But it can also be unwelcome and unwanted if eliciting memories that the client is not yet ready to confront.
Anxiety – Music is not a one-size-fits-all experience. Not everyone likes music. And very few people like every type of music. In fact, most people we have worked with have certain genres, songs, or artists on their personal “no listen” list. Hearing that song, artist, or genre—even in an open public space—can induce negative responses physiologically and/or emotionally.