What is music therapy?

  • Music therapy is practiced by university trained music therapists, who have studied how to apply the use of music to benefit people with a wide variety of health and /or developmental conditions.
  • Music therapists use music and its elements to support the learning, healing, and therapeutic goals of their clients:
    • relieving depression and isolation in seniors while improving their quality of life, or with people who have a had a stroke to recover some speech ability,
    • teaching autistic children how to use language, express themselves, their ideas and feelings through music and relate to others,
    • supporting children, teens and adults to making sense of themselves and their lives,
    • In palliative care, to support the client to relax, relieve pain, and prepare, when ready, to move on into death.


Music therapy has different goals and methods for different clientele:


Major areas of learning include:

  • engagement and relating skills,
  • supporting language development and self expression,
  • stimulating global learning and development
  • strengthening creativity
  • supporting whole child development, emotional, social, cognitive, physical, spiritual and making it fun and motivating…for relaxed learning and a healthy sense of self

Trudy is running round, glancing at me from the corner of her eye. I pick up the singing bowl and start to play it. She comes over and looks at it…touches it…pauses. She goes around the room and I follow her using song to help her to relate to her environment. Eventually, she is the one singing…


Dementia and other conditions:

  • programs that support quality of life
  • stimulate and support cognitive well-being
  • encourage life review and integration of life issues
  • support self-worth and healthy sense of self

Mary is lonely and depressed. Her dementia, physical condition and depression make it difficult to motivate in regular programs. Her eyes light up as she sees me. I see her on an individual basis, and have been learning the songs which are memorable for her. Some songs remind her of her life and she shares snippets of stories. Others, support her feelings and allow her to know her feelings are heard. I hand her the xylophone and her eyes light up as she focuses her attention on improvising a melody, while I support her on the guitar.

  • involves therapist, client in the creative process, whether playing instruments, singing, creative visualization, movement, writing or art in combination with music
  • encourages self- expression, non-verbally through instruments,  or verbal – through song-writing or lyric discussion
  • takes place in a natural & supportive environment
  • may be activating or relaxing as needed
  • offers opportunities for creative breaks, encouraging mental de-stressing, and allowing cross brain fertilization & integration
  • bypasses the mental field allowing blocked emotions to flow more easily for so growth and healing can occur
  • works well in conjunction with talk therapy
  • Brain research shows that music playing stimulates virtually all parts of the brain including those used for language and physical co-ordination,  auditory and visual processing, and emotional self-expression and regulation.