toolHi all,

Just jotting down some quick notes/thoughts on a topic that continuously pops up for me as a clinician, supervisor, and educator: the concept of music being used versus music being worked in in therapy. One word treats music as a thing, and the other as a verb. For me, the differences are pretty significant, and are a critical factors in establishing my identify as a  music therapist. The purpose of this post is to flesh out some questions and encourage dialogue. These ideas, thoughts, and questions are by no means something new, and in fact are consistently brought up via social media.

So, as music therapists, why do we play and make music, or create music experiences with clients? Does the musical experience really matter? Is the music more about being some-thing that is sound-based and seeks nothing more but to alter a behavior (i.e. I play this and you do that. If you don’t do that, I keep playing this to make you do that because I want you to do that)? Is the music about the experience occurring between you and the client as a relationship unfolds? And if so, how can the relationship foster health?

Furthermore, is it (music therapy) about using music as a stimulus (i.e. stimulus-response based work)? Or, Is it about working in music and experiencing the things that are unique about it, i.e., aesthetic and relational elements? The “keys” here, I believe, are the words “using” and “working.” Can a music therapist do both, use and work in music at the same time? Is that really possible? Can both paradigms be blended together? Does one cancel out the other? Or are they two completely different paradigms that may only “live” on their own? That brings me to the big question that I ask my students quite often: what is the difference between a speech therapist using music to facilitate speech sounds and a music therapist working towards the same behavioral goal? Is there really a difference? They both are using music to foster a behavior. (i.e. stimulus-response?).I would say that in the example given, the speech therapist may probably be more effective in helping the client realize the speech-based goal because that is the ST’s area of expertise: speech development. That being said, however, working in music can be viewed, some say, as the something that is unique to the music therapist and his/her training because it purely deals with working within the experience of music. What this may mean is that we, just like STs, PTs, etc., can offer a unique perspective based on our discipline/medium.  Thoughts?

Thanks for reading.