What is Music Therapy?
26 Oct 15
written by Sheldon Francescini, BMT, MTA, MT-BC
After 5 years in school (at Douglas College and Capilano University) I recently graduated with my Bachelors of Music Therapy, passed the board certification process, and am now an Accredited Music Therapist. “What do you do, though?” or “What is Music Therapy?” many people have asked. In this article I’ll attempt to explain a little bit about music therapy and what I do.
Music Therapy is the clinical use of music by a trained Music Therapist to achieve non-musical therapeutic goals, promoting, maintaining and restoring mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health. A clinical profession that developed after WWII, music therapy is generally not about making someone into a better musician, but rather focuses on other areas of personal growth.
Music therapists work with clients across the spectrum of life, from very young to the deathbed:
To give some examples…
1. Imagine a 5 year old boy on the autism spectrum who does not understand the idea of turn-taking in conversation and social interactions. Sitting on either side of a big xylophone both with a mallet in hand, the music therapist cues the child to play a bit and listen a bit in a “call and response” form and later practices using this skill in non-musical social interactions.
2. Jessie, a 25 year old woman with depression who has been hospitalized after a suicide attempt tears up when the music therapist plays “Blackbird” during a music therapy group. She later tells the therapist that she loves the hope portrayed in the lyrics. Later, in a 1 on 1 session they tailor the lyrics to fit Jessie’s life situation and then record the song for her to keep. The adapted “Blackbird” becomes an anthem of hope and recovery for Jessie.
3. Margaret, an 83 year old woman in the late stages of dementia and wheelchair-bound sits in on a small group music therapy session in her care home. She is disoriented, her face is downcast and her eyes vacant. As the music therapist begins to sing, “Edelweiss”, she looks up, recognizing the tune and listening carefully. As the music therapist asks her to “dance”, taking her hands, she sways side to side with him, a smile creeping on to her face, and she sings the final three words with the therapist, then says “thank you”.
4. In a palliative care unit, a man is having difficulty facing his approaching death and saying goodbye to his family, and experiences chronic pain (which medication does not fully relieve). A music therapist can help this client review the seasons and accomplishments of his life by helping him choose a selection of songs to represent significant elements of his life, perform together and record these songs, and share them with family and friends to express his feelings and say farewell. A music therapist can address his pain by engaging the client in listening to or playing and singing along with recorded and live music to soothe and distract.
These stories (based on some of my work) give you an idea of what I do, but you can learn more at www.facebook.com/sheldonmusictherapy or by talking to me in person!
I currently work at Simpson Manor (Langley) and on a private contract.