What is Music Therapy?
Music therapy is the planned and creative use of music to attain and maintain health and well-being.
It is a research-based practice and an established health profession that incorporates a range of music making methods within and through a therapeutic relationship to address physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs of individuals.
Music therapy differs from musical entertainment or music education in that it uses music to achieve specific outcomes.
Music therapy is used in a variety of sectors including health, community, aged care, disability, early childhood, and private practice.
What is a Music Therapist?
A Registered Music Therapist (RMT) is a proficient musician who has completed an accredited university course in applying music as a therapy.
Registered music therapists draw on an extensive body of research. They have studied all aspects of music performance, history and theory, in addition to psychology, physiology, social theory and models of therapeutic intervention.
RMTs work with a range of clients including young children in hospitals, early intervention facilities and in private practice.
RMTs are registered with the Australian Music Therapy Association Inc (AMTA Inc) and are bound by the Code of Professional Conduct and Ethics of the AMTA Inc.
Neurologic Music Therapists are required to have completed additional training above and beyond standard music therapy certification in order to maintain their NMT designation.
What is Neurologic Music Therapy?
Neurologic music therapy (NMT) is the therapeutic application of music and neuroscience on cognitive, motor, and sensory functions and development.
NMT helps with body awareness and regulation. It can help align breathing rate, neural pathways, heart rate, which helps coordinate motor planning and self-regulation.
NMT can help create new and/or different neurologic pathways and centres in the brain.
NMT differs from traditional music therapy in that it focuses specifically on music and rhythm’s physical effect on the brain and brain connections; while traditional music therapy uses a psychosocial (emotional, physical, mental) approach to therapy.
Music Therapy in Early Childhood
Early childhood is the period from birth to eight years old and is a time of remarkable growth and brain development. During this stage, children learn holistically, meaning that social, emotional, cognitive, language, and physical lessons are learned from the whole experience.
In typically developing babies and toddlers, music therapy is used to enhance and develop socialisation, communication, self- expression, and sensory-motor skills.
It does this by encouraging a child’s development through activities such as singing, instrumental play, movement, songwriting, sensory play and relaxation to music.
Music therapy provides opportunities for children to achieve sensory integration and emotional regulation; to develop their communication and social skills and encourage general development through musical play.
One of the reasons music therapy works so well with children is that it gets their brains and bodies working while they are having fun, building a solid and broad foundation for lifelong learning and wellbeing.
Music Therapy in Early Childhood Intervention
Early Childhood Intervention provides specialised support for babies and toddlers with developmental delays, disabilities or additional needs, and their families.
It is about taking action as early as possible to support children and families in order to promote development, well-being and community participation.
Music therapy can be very effective in early childhood intervention, particularly for families who have a child with a disability.
Research shows that music therapy can provide important therapeutic benefits for families in the areas of early parenting, child development and maternal wellbeing.
General goal areas for music therapy in early childhood and early intervention include:
- Gross and fine motor control
- age appropriate social skills
- attention and focus
- following instructions
- body awareness & self-regulation
- sensory integration
- age appropriate concepts
- basic literacy & numeracy
Music therapy can be very beneficial for school aged children with additional needs.
It can be used in conjunction with the child’s school curriculum, to aid students in social situations, to allow self-expression, and to regulate emotions and sensory processing in a school environment.
Children who participate in music therapy will have an individualised plan that is set by the Registered Music Therapist in collaboration with parents and other therapists.
Music therapy can be used for:
- body awareness and sensory integration
- speech & language
- sequencing & memory
- social skills
- increased attention control
- motor planning
- improved mental health
- education themes