Music Therapy is Not The Same as Music Lessons!

Photo Courtesy of: Alexandra Stead

Photo Courtesy of: Alexandra Stead

As a parent, you should be sure you clearly understand the difference. 

Music Therapy might seem like a new kind of therapy, but in fact it has been used for hundreds of years.  In the last fifty years, music therapy has become a widely accepted treatment modality for patients with a broad range of illnesses and disorders.

Still, many people have never heard of music therapy, and are unfamiliar with its benefits.  I believe one of the biggest reasons for this is the varying levels of quality we see in music therapists that are practicing today.

Sadly, many parents may be wasting their money on ineffective music therapy treatments.  If you are a parent using the services of a music therapist, you should routinely do a progress check to make sure goals and objectives are being achieved.  This is only possible if parameters are established in the beginning so that you can effectively measure therapeutic progress. 

To better understand the difference between music therapy and music lessons, I think it is helpful to think of the difference between physical fitness training and bodybuilding.   With physical fitness training, the goal is to improve health and proper body function.  Bodybuilders however, have a very different goal, and that is to achieve cosmetic “perfection” by a particular date, such as a bodybuilding contest.  In both cases, the same exercise equipment is used, but for very different goals and objectives.

Music lessons help students attain a high level of performance “perfection” which can be showcased on a particular date, such as a recital. On the other hand, Music therapy helps clients enhance cognitive, social and learning abilities, with no attempt to achieve perfection.  Achieving musical proficiency is not the focus in music therapy, and is certainly not a requirement. Music and the instruments used to create music are simply tools for the music therapist to achieve his or her goals.

Using brain-imaging technology, scientists have shown that when we hear music, we stimulate both sides of our brain.  We believe this explains why our clients with speech difficulties respond so well to music therapy – the part of the brain that control’s speech is also being stimulated by music.  Since music stimulates the brain so broadly, we have seen music therapy be very effective for a wide range of interventions for children with special needs.  Music rewards engagement, and this can be a powerful motivator for children. Therapists can use music to reward desirable behaviours and eliminate undesirable ones.

For children with special needs, their quality of life is closely related to the time of intervention – the earlier the better.  Therefore, we believe children with special needs should begin therapy as early as possible in their development. It is crucial that time not be wasted on ineffective music therapy interventions or music lessons that have no therapeutic benefit.

If you’d like to learn more about how music therapy can benefit your child’s needs, please give us a call for a free consultation. 

As Seen In Autism Parenting Magazine