Music therapy is the use of interventions to accomplish individual goals within a therapeutic relationship by a professional who has completed an approved music therapy program. Music therapy is an allied health profession and one of the expressive therapies, consisting of a process in which a music therapist uses music and all of its facets—physical, emotional, mental, social, aesthetic, and spiritual—to help clients improve their health. Music therapists primarily help clients improve their health in several domains, such as cognitive functioning,motor skills, emotional development, social skills, and quality of life, by using music experiences such as free improvisation, singing, and listening to, discussing, and moving to music to achieve treatment goals. It has a wide qualitative and quantitative research literature base and incorporates clinical therapy, bio musicology, musical acoustics, music theory, psycho-acoustics,psychotherapy, embodied music cognition, aesthetics of music, sensory integration, and comparative musicology. Referrals to music therapy services may be made by other health care professionals such as physicians, psychologists, physical therapists, and occupational therapists. Clients can also choose to pursue music therapy services without a referral (i.e., self-referral).
Music therapists are found in nearly every area of the helping professions. Some commonly found practices include developmental work (communication, motor skills, etc.) with individuals with special needs, songwriting and listening in reminiscence/orientation work with the elderly, processing and relaxation work, and rhythmic entertainment for physical rehabilitation in stroke victims. Music therapy is also used in some medical hospitals, cancer centers, schools, alcohol and drug recovery programs, psychiatric hospitals, and correctional facilities.
There are many different music therapy techniques used with adolescents. The music therapy model is based on various theoretical backgrounds such as psycho dynamic, behavioral, and humanistic approaches. Techniques can be classified as active vs. receptive and improvisational vs. structured.The most common techniques in use with adolescents are musical improvisation, the use of Pre-composed songs or music, receptive listening to music, verbal discussion about the music, and incorporating creative media outlets into the therapy. Research also showed that improvisation and the use of other media were the two techniques most often used by the music therapists. The overall research showed that adolescents in music therapy “change more when discipline-specific music therapy techniques, such as improvisation and verbal reflection of the music, are used.” The results of this study showed that music therapists should put careful thought into their choice of technique with each individual client. In the end, those choices can affect the outcome of the treatment.
To those unfamiliar with music therapy the idea may seem a little strange, but music therapy has been found to be as effective as traditional forms of therapy. In a meta-analysis of the effects of music therapy for children and adolescents with psychopathology, Gold, Voracek, and Wigram (2004) looked at ten studies conducted between 1970 and 1998 to examine the overall efficacy of music therapy on children and adolescents with behavioral, emotional, and developmental disorders. The results of the meta-analysis found that “music therapy with these clients has a highly significant, medium to large effect on clinically relevant outcomes.” More specifically, music therapy was most effective on subjects with mixed diagnoses. Another important result was that “the effects of music therapy are more enduring when more sessions are provided.
One example of clinical work is that done by music therapists who work with adolescents to increase their emotional and cognitive stability, identify factors contributing to distress and initiate changes to alleviate that distress. Music therapy may also focus on improving quality of life and building self-esteem, a sense self-worth, and confidence. Improvements in these areas can be measured by a number of tests, including qualitative questionnaires like Beck’s Depression Inventory, State and Trait Anxiety Inventory, and Relationship Change Scale. Effects of music therapy can also be observed in the patient’s demeanor, body language, and changes in awareness of mood.
Two main methods for music therapy are group meetings and one-one sessions. Group music therapy can include group discussions concerning moods and emotions in or toward music, songwriting, and musical improvisation. Groups emphasizing mood recognition and awareness, group cohesion, and improvement in self-esteem can be effective in working with adolescents. Group therapy, however, is not always the best choice for the client. Ongoing one-on-one music therapy has also been shown to be effective. One-on-one music therapy provides a non-invasive, non-judgmental environment, encouraging clients to show capacities that may be hidden in group situations.
Though more research needs to be done to ascertain the effect of music therapy on adolescents with mood disorders, most research has shown positive effects.