I received an awesome comment from Maven reader Brid this week. He wrote:
Hi Kimberly, I’m perusing your site with particular interest at the moment. I’m actually a ‘nearly’ graduated occupational therapy student (just three weeks from the finish line!) and I’m also a keen musician – I have a MA in performance and a lifetime of playing, composing, performing and teaching.
I’d be interested in your thoughts on other disciplines using music as part of their therapy – is this something you support (given the therapeutic value of music) or do you feel other disciplines would muck it up without specialized training?
I’m currently running a music group with clients with enduring mental illness – I’m running it with a social/skills building/therapeutic slant, letting the participants experience a number of different aspects of music (thus far active listening, relaxation, singing, waltzing, hand jiving, exercising and talking about music). I suppose my goal is for the participants to experience music, to realize that music is for everyone, to develop skills like attention, memory and coordination and perhaps to encourage them to consciously include music in their everyday lives. I’m almost a qualified occupational therapist and believe that the sessions are benefiting clients – the hand jiving session was wonderful fun – totally infectious!!
So I wonder how you (and others) as music therapists feel about OTs or SLTs or psychologists or nurses or doctors running music groups or using music as therapy?
Although I answered Brid in the comment section of that article, it’s a question worth an entire blog post. Brid is not the first person to ask whether music therapists are “okay” with other professionals using music in their work.
The short answer is: of course!!! Music therapists in no way “own” music. We understand the power of music and think it’s wonderful when other professionals incorporate it in to their work.
But does that mean those professionals are “doing music therapy.” Well…no.
When I run a music and exercise group, am I “doing OT” or “doing PT” because I’m using many of the same exercises they use? No.
When I incorporate oral motor and respiratory exercises to strengthen the speech of an individual with Parkinson’s, does that mean I’m “doing speech therapy?” No.
And when I use active listening techniques when facilitating a group therapy session, does that mean I’m “doing counseling?” Absolutely not.
So…then what’s the difference?
The difference is that each professional listed above is trained to follow and adhere to a Scope of Practice and a Code of Ethics for their field. We have a deep understanding of the theory behind our practice, of what works and why it works, and how to best incorporate it in various situations.
In the case of music therapists, we have a solid foundation in music playing, music theory, composition, improvisation, and music psychology. In addition, we are trained in psychology and the sciences and learn how our brains and bodies respond to music and rhythm.
A music therapist not only understands the art of music as therapy…but also the science of it. And we can do amazing things with that knowledge.
I welcome anyone who–as long as they are working within their own training and scope of practice–uses music in their health, healing, and educational work. I say this with an understanding and a guarantee that how they use music won’t match what a board-certified music therapist can do.