Mental Health

How Does Music Therapy Make a Difference for Persons with Mental Health Needs?

Music therapy is an effective and valid treatment for persons who have psychosocial,
affective, cognitive and communicative needs. Research results and clinical experiences attest to the
viability of music therapy even in those who are resistive to other treatment approaches. Music is a
form of sensory stimulation that provokes responses due to the familiarity, predictability and feelings
of security associated with it. Music therapy for clients with mental health concerns uses musical
interaction as a means of communication and expression. The aim of therapy is to help individuals
develop relationships and address issues they may not be able to address using words alone. Music
therapy sessions include the use of active music making, music listening, and discussion.

What do Music Therapists Do?

Music therapists use music strategies, both instrumental and vocal, which are designed to
facilitate changes that are non-musical in nature. Music selections and certain active music making
activities are modified for client preferences and individualized needs (i.e., song selection and music
may vary). Music therapy programs are based on individual assessment, treatment planning, and
ongoing program evaluation. Frequently functioning as members of an interdisciplinary team, music
therapists implement programs with groups or individuals that display a vast continuum of needs, from
reduction of anxiety to deeper self-understanding.

What Can One Expect From a Music Therapist?

Music therapists work with the interdisciplinary team to assess emotional well being, physical
health, social functioning, communication abilities, and cognitive skills through musical responses.
When individualized music experiences are designed by the music therapist to fit functional abilities and
needs, responses may be immediate and readily apparent. Clients need not have a music background
to benefit from music therapy.

Music therapy intervention provides opportunities to:
  • Explore personal feelings and therapeutic issues such as self-esteem or personal insight
  • Make positive changes in mood and emotional states
  • Have a sense of control over life through successful experiences
  • Enhance awareness of self and environment
  • Express oneself both verbally and non-verbally
  • Develop coping and relaxation skills
  • Support healthy feelings and thoughts
  • Improve reality testing and problem solving skills
  • Interact socially with others
  • Develop independence and decision making skills
  • Improve concentration and attention span
  • Adopt positive forms of behavior
  • Resolve conflicts leading to stronger family and peer relationships

--Text Courtesy of the American Music Therapy Association