Music Therapy

Three centuries ago, William Congreve declared, "Music hath charms to soothe the savage beast." Congreve's statement only begins to hint at the therapeutic value of music. Music therapy is the systematic application of music to aid in the treatment of the physiologic and psychological aspects of an illness or disability. It is applied in a variety of rehabilitation and palliative care settings.

Techniques may work with anyone from Alzheimer's patients to addiction patients, in private homes or hospitals. Music therapists observe and assess patients, target an objective, develop and initiate a music therapy procedure, and empirically evaluate the results.

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Children and Music

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Music aids in the development of:

Source: Target on Music, The Ivemount School, Ruthlee Figlure Adler in collaboration with Lillian R. Davis)

Treatment Methods

Improvisational Music Therapy

Improvisational music therapy utilizes a variety of techniques to elicit client's responses from every level. Contact with the client is developed within the context of musical experience. The role of a music therapist in this model is to work supportively, creating a musical emotional environment that accepts and enhances the client's responses. This method provides experiences for a socialization, communication and expression of feelings and emotions among group participants. The music therapist can also integrate movement, speech and drama in this model. The improvisational model often includes Nordoff-Robbins, Clinical Orff Schulwerk or other types of improvisational styles.

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Clinical Orff Schulwerk (COS)

This approach, utilizing the method of music education developed by Carl Orff for German school children, has been specially adapted for mentally retarded and autistic children in the United States. COS offers an effective groundwork for these children because of their pre-disposition toward rhythm, order and repetition. The overall process involves the use of movement, rhythm, sounds, language and musical expression in a group experience. 

Structure is provided by the simple chants, rondos, poems, nonsense words and ostinati employed, all sung within the pentatonic scale

Learning is effected through modeling (imitation) and behavior shaping, reinforced by behavioral techniques. With groups of autistic children, considerable attention is given to language development through the use of sign language, which is seen as enhancing speech. Among other areas dealt with in the Orff context are body image and awareness, laterality, gross motor expression, fine motor coordination, receptive language, spatial relationships, simple categorizing and simple association. A significant value of COS is that it helps the child to become invested in a meaningful group experience. 

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Singing and Discussions

Singing and discussions are a typical music therapy method which can be used for psychiatric patients, adolescent populations, as well as for the elderly. The music stimulates clients' responses to the lyric parts. Sometimes the music itself encourages the expression of thoughts and feelings associated with the songs. 

Guided Imagery and Music (GIM)

GIM is a technique in which listening to classical music is combined with a relaxed state of mind and body in order to evoke imagery for the purpose of self-actualization. The imagery evoked reflects aspects of the self and is used by the client, with the aid of the therapist. GIM does not intend to cure or treat symptoms; rather is is in search of client's inner awareness. There is a belief that every one can understand his or her problems and has the ability to overcome the problem within the self. GIM is based on humanistic therapy, influenced by Abraham Malsow and Carl Jung. 

Music and Human Behavior

Music provides for self expression and self actualization.

Music has a unique and powerful influence. It helps to change behavior, sometimes by itself, but most often the persuasion of the Registered Music Therapist is involved.

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Rhythm is an organizer and energizer.

Rhythm alone makes possible the temporal order of music. Most people will disregard music to which they cannot keep a beat. If rhythmic order cannot be established then melody and harmony lose their potency. Rhythmic activities make working together easier, because no words are needed; rhythm is the common bond. 

Music is structured reality.

Music has structure. Patterns of melody, pitch, rhythm, tempo and dynamics all demand a preciseness. All the senses bring to us aspects of reality. Music can be read, heard and felt. Music's reality and structure make it a valuable therapeutic medium. 

Music involves reality orientations in many forms and on such levels as the situation requires. The various stimuli included would be aural (bouth musical and verbal), the feel of the instrument itself, visual (musical notation and conductor cues), and the individual's own body.

Music is a source of gratification.

The performance of music usually brings a sense of gratification, feelings of accomplishment and mastery. Music has order and predictability and both are essential for competence. Music permits and encourages each person to participate dynamically in his/her own growth and change. 

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Music demands time-ordered behavior.

The time-order of music requires the client to structure behavior in the most minute and continuous manner. No other form of human behavior demands and depends so completely on strict adherence to time-ordered structure.

Music permits ordering of behavior according to psychological response level.

Required musical behavior can be adapted to the client's psychological capacities and operational levels. Through the motivation intrinsic in the music and the structure provided by the therapists, the client can be moved to amore desirable psychological level. 

Music provides compensatory endeavors for the handicapped.

By being able to accomplish in music some of the same things that his/her normal counterparts do, the individual with a disability may be led to a healthy acceptance of limitations, that is, limitations as one aspect of the self and not as the whole self.

Source: Thayer Gaston and William Sears, University of Kansas

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Conditions Benefited

Music therapists work with a wide variety of people who can benefit from it. Services are rendered to people of every chronological age, mental age and adaptive level of functioning in a variety of health care, habilitative, rehabilitative, educational, community and private practice settings. Those most likely to benefit from music therapy include the:

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