Therapeutic Music Making

By Kalani • April 7th, 2014

What is Therapeutic Music?

Therapeutic music is any music or sound form that is used purposefully and skillfully to create a desired change in a person's physical, emotional, or cognitive state. In short, it is music that helps people create positive change.

What is Therapeutic Music Making?

Therapeutic music making is the act of creating therapeutic music, for one's self or for others. Therapeutic music making often involves actively playing instruments, humming, chanting, singing, and engaging in practices that often accompany music, such as dance, movement, and rituals.

What can be changed through the use of Therapeutic Music?

There are several criteria or 'states' that can be changed through the use of therapeutic music. These include:

  • Physical
  • Emotional
  • Mental / Cognitive
  • Spiritual

There are two main uses of Therapeutic Music with regard to the above criteria:

  • Calming
  • Stimulating

How does Therapeutic Music work?

There are two main methods used in the practice of therapeutic music:

  • Receptive/Passive
  • Creative/Active

In the receptive method, the practitioner(s) plays music for client(s), who listens and responds in various ways (physically, emotionally, cognitively). The music is designed and delivered by the practitioner who makes choices about the music based on knowledge of the client's needs.

In the creative method, the practitioner(s) and client(s) are one in the same. Practitioners create and play music, either alone, with a partner, or in a group, that is designed to promote positive change in their physiological, cognitive, and/or emotional state.

In both methods, the practitioner(s) are knowledgeable and skilled in the creation, performance, and application of music and sound forms. They are also considerate of the physical, emotional, and cognitive state(s) of the client(s).

Where is Therapeutic Music Making practiced?

Music has been used therapeutically for thousands of years, often in settings that promote physical and emotional wellbeing, performed by highly skilled practitioners, both professional and amateur. Settings include retreats, resorts, spas, healing centers, and homes.

Who uses Therapeutic Music?

A range of people, from amateurs to professionals use therapeutic music and therapeutic music making. These include amateur musicians, sound healers, music therapists, professional musicians, and anyone who wishes to incorporate music into their lives in ways that are physically, emotionally, and cognitively beneficial.

Therapeutic music is also sometimes called 'beneficial music making,' since the main goal is to provide some benefit to the client or practitioner.

Is Therapeutic Music the same as Music Therapy?

Music therapy is the treatment of a client by a board-certified music therapist and involves an assessment of the client's specific needs, the design of a treatment plan, the treatment of the client over a period of time (with the possible involvement of the client's family, caregivers and treatment team), and the eventual termination of treatment. Music Therapy is a profession that requires specific training, supervision, and certification as provided by accredited institutions. The profession of music therapy (in the US) is organized by the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA) and the Certification Board for Music Therapists (CBMT). Music Therapy is often provided to individuals with specific cognitive, physical, emotional, and other conditions where treatment has been recommend by the client, his/her family, or an institution.

Therapeutic Music and Therapeutic Music Making are often provided as a single service. There are no specific educational or certification requirements to offer therapeutic music services, although training and some type of certification is recommend for both practitioners and clients. Participation in therapeutic music making is often at the discretion of the client. Clients who receive therapeutic music are usually typically functioning and not diagnosed with a specific physical, cognitive, or emotional condition that requires treatment of some kind.

A general analogy can be made between physical therapy (music therapy) and massage therapy (therapeutic music). The former requires specific training and is delivered for specific reasons at specific times. The later is more casual in nature and is often done at the discretion of the client. The former is provided in a clinical or professional setting while the later is often provided in a home or a spa setting. Both are valuable services that fulfill different, yet related, needs.

A music therapist may provide therapeutic music as part of a treatment plan, such as in the case of a hospice patient who could benefit from music that promotes relaxation, for example. In this case, the therapeutic music becomes part of the music therapy service. Similarly, a physical therapist may elect to include massage therapy as part of a physical therapy treatment plan. Massage therapy alone does not constitute physical therapy. Similarly, therapeutic music alone (or within another therapeutic context) does not constitute music therapy.

Physical therapy and massage therapy are related in some ways and very different in other ways. Both are valuable services used at various times for different reasons.

Where can I learn to provide Therapeutic Music as a service?

There are several educational programs designed to help people learn how to provide therapeutic music and facilitate therapeutic music making. During the DCM Summer course in Los Angeles, participants will experience both receptive and active forms of therapeutic music and therapeutic music making. If you are a current practitioner or thinking about gaining the skills to provide therapeutic music, we invite you to attend the DCM Summer course.






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