Discuss music therapy related to the selected populations listed.

8455 Colesville Road, Suite 1000, Silver Spring, MD 20910 (301) 589-3300 fax (301) 589-5175

email: amta@musictherapy.org website: www.musictherapy.org

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American Music Therapy Association, Inc.


What is Music Therapy?

Music Therapy is the clinical and evidenced-based use of music interventions to accomplish

individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional who has completed

an approved music therapy program. Music therapy is a well-established allied health profession

similar to occupational therapy and physical therapy. It consists of using music therapeutically to

address physical, psychological, cognitive, behavioral and/or social functioning. Because music

therapy is a powerful and non-threatening medium, unique outcomes are possible. With young children,

music therapy provides a unique variety of music experiences in an intentional and developmentally

appropriate manner to effect changes in a child’s behavior and facilitate development of his/her

communication, social/emotional, sensori-motor, and/or cognitive skills.

Music therapy enhances the quality of life. It involves relationships between a qualified

therapist and child; between one child and another; between child and family; and between the music

and the participants. These relationships are structured and adapted through the elements of music to

create a positive environment and set the occasion for successful growth.

How Does Music Therapy Make a Difference with Young Children?

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


Music therapy can help a child manage pain and stressful situations.

Music can encourage socialization, self-expression, communication, and motor


Because the brain processes music in both hemispheres, music can stimulate cognitive

functioning and may be used for remediation of some speech/language skills.

Example Case Study:

A music therapist working in a community music school refers to one of her students as a

“musical child.” The six-year old girl, who has physical and developmental delays, is somewhat

verbal and interacts in a limited way with others. When she began music therapy at age three, it

quickly became obvious that she had exceptional innate musical ability. She could play the piano by

ear when she was two, although her hands have only four fingers each. And even though she rarely

spoke, she sang – and in tune.

The last three years have resulted in significant growth. Through weekly individual 45-minute

and then 60-minute music therapy sessions, the child has made progress in the length of her attention

span, degree of independence and ability to follow directions. She now speaks one and two word

phrases spontaneously, and there is also marked improvement in her social skills. In addition to

singing and playing keyboard and piano, the child now plays the omnichord, autoharp, bells, chimes,

xylophones, drum set and various small percussion instruments. In her initial stages of music therapy,

when she played the keyboard and piano, she would not allow anyone else to play with her. Now,

however, she plays the melody and the therapist plays the accompaniment. The child’s preschool

teacher has asked her to play for other children in her class, thereby using her musical strength to draw

her into the group.

What Do Music Therapists Do?

Music therapists involve children in singing, listening, moving, playing, and in creative

activities that may help them become better learners. Music therapists work on developing a child’s

self-awareness, confidence, readiness skills, coping skills, and social behavior and may also provide

pain management techniques. They explore which styles of music, techniques and instruments are

most effective or motivating for each individual child and expand upon the child’s natural, spontaneous

play in order to address areas of need.

Often working as a part of an interdisciplinary team, music therapists may coordinate

programming with other professionals such as early intervention specialists, medical personnel, child-

life specialists, psychologists, occupational and physical therapists, speech/language pathologists,

adapted physical education specialists and art and dance/movement therapists. Music therapists may

also furnish families with suggestions and resources for using music with the child at home.

Music therapists develop a rapport with children. They observe the child’s behavior and

interactions and assess communication, cognitive/academic, motor, social/emotional, and musical

skills. After developing realistic goals and target objectives, music therapists plan and implement

systematic music therapy treatment programs with procedures and techniques designed specifically for

the individual child. Music therapists document responses, conduct ongoing evaluations of progress,

and often make recommendations to other team members and the family regarding progress. Music

therapists will also often make recommendations to team members and the family regarding ways to

include successful music therapy techniques in other aspects of the child’s life.

Who is a Qualified Music Therapist?

Graduates of colleges or universities from more than 70 approved music therapy programs are

eligible to take a national examination administered by the Certification Board for Music Therapists

(CBMT), an independent, non-profit certifying agency fully accredited by the National Commission for

Certifying Agencies. After successful completion of the CBMT examination, graduates are issued the

credential necessary for professional practice, Music Therapist-Board Certified (MT-BC). In addition

to the MT-BC credential, other recognized professional designations are Registered Music Therapists

(RMT), Certified Music Therapists (CMT), and Advanced Certified Music Therapist (ACMT) listed

with the National Music Therapy Registry. Any individual who does not have proper training and

credentials is not qualified to provide music therapy services.

What Can One Expect from a Music Therapist?

Since music therapy may be listed on the child’s IEP (Individualized Education Program)

as a “related service” or may be provided to children under the age of three as part of the IFSP

(Individualized Family Service Plan), music therapists must be able to assess the needs of the young

child as well as those of the family. They design individualized programming, monitor progress,

evaluate, and provide documentation related to the child’s goals and objectives.

A music therapist who works with young children should possess a strong knowledge of relevant

music and materials, early childhood development, specific needs of the child, and developmentally

appropriate practices. A music therapist is accomplished in the use of instruments and voice. He/she

is able to adapt strategies to a variety of settings and across disciplines, thus individualizing music

therapy interventions to meet children’s specific needs. In addition, he/she may provide structured or

semi-structured opportunities for children with and without disabilities to interact together in a music

setting. Music therapists are creative, energetic, and positive. They demonstrate strong oral and

written communication skills and work well with families and other professionals.

Where do Music Therapists Work?

In addition to early intervention centers, preschools, and schools, music therapists offer services

to individuals and groups in a variety of settings. These settings include, but are not limited to, mental

health clinics, rehabilitation facilities, outpatient clinics, wellness programs, schools, nursing homes,

senior centers, private practice, group homes, day care treatment centers, medical and psychiatric

hospitals, substance abuse programs, hospice and bereavement programs, and correctional and forensic

facilities. Some music therapists are self-employed and may be hired on a contractual basis to provide

assessment, consultation, or treatment services for children and adults.

How Does Music Therapy Help Families?

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.

What Research and Resources are Available to Substantiate and Support Music Therapy?

Through Journal of Music Therapy, Music Therapy Perspectives , and other resources, AMTA

promotes much research exploring the benefits of music therapy with young children. Furthermore,

AMTA has an Early Childhood Network that disseminates additional information to interested


Why Music Therapy?

Music therapy may address several needs simultaneously in a positive and exciting medium:

it may provide pleasurable learning that promotes success. Furthermore, music therapy can greatly

enhance the quality of life of the young child and his/her family. Music is often the first thing to which

a child relates. It is a “universal language” that crosses all cultural lines. Music occurs naturally in our

environment in many settings and is a socially appropriate activity and leisure skill. Music provides a

predictable time-oriented and reality-oriented structure while offering opportunities for participation at

one’s own level of functioning and ability. Not only may music activities be opportunities for a child

to “shine,” but they may also be used to reinforce nonmusical goals. Most people, especially children,

enjoy music – therefore, music therapy can be the therapy that reinforces all other therapies.

A Director of Educational Services for a public school system affirms:

“The inclusionary preschool music therapy sessions gave children an opportunity to make new

friends and learn things about themselves and others. I saw major gains in the children’s social skills

and in their attention spans. I wholeheartedly endorse the program and think that every child could

benefit from music therapy.”

An occupational therapist writes:

“I love having a music therapist on our interdisciplinary team. When we co-lead sessions, I

notice that the children are much more motivated to push themselves when working with such things

as fine motor control and range of motion activities.”

The father of a 5 year old child diagnosed with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder


“Music therapy has helped my son to increase his concentration and attending. His eye contact

has increased since participating in music therapy. Moreover, I believe that in part his increased use

of language may be attributed to attending music therapy. Finally, he has developed an interest in

music.” (Child has participated in individual music therapy for 1 1/2 years.)

The mother of a 6 1/2-year-old child diagnosed with Down Syndrome states:

“Music therapy has helped my son to learn turn-taking, sharing, listening skills and some

colors, animals, parts of the body and clothes.” (Child participated in group music therapy for 2 years

in preschool and then in individual music therapy for 1 year in kindergarten.)

The mother of 7 year old twin sons, one diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome and one diagnosed

with Pervasive Developmental Disorder, comments:

“For one son music therapy seems to have reduced an extreme sensitivity to sound. For both

boys, the therapy has been a catalyst for improved sociability. Much of the time the boys seem to exist

on parallel universes, but on the drive home from therapy they usually have a conversation.” (The

boys have participated in small group or partner music therapy sessions for two years.)

The mother of an 8-year-old child with Apert Syndrome and Attention Deficit Behaviors notes:

“Music therapy has (1) helped with my daughter’s spontaneous speech; (2) allowed her to use

her hands with many different textures and independently of each other; (3) expanded on her natural

musical ability; and (4) helped her learn to focus and develop patience with music as the motivator.”

(Child participated in small group music therapy for 1 1/2 years in preschool and in individual music

therapy for 4 years.)

The parent of a hospitalized child undergoing treatment for cancer relates:

“Music therapy has been a tremendous benefit not only for my child, but also for our family.

During music therapy time, my child is able to do fun things that help him forget about his pain. We

are grateful to share some time with him doing things that bring back a smile to his face.”

How Can You Find a Music Therapist or Get More Information?

American Music Therapy Association

8455 Colesville Road, Suite 1000

Silver Spring, MD 20910

(301) 589-3300 Fax (301) 589-5175

Email: info@musictherapy.org

Web: http://www.musictherapy.org

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