My husband is a band director and music educator. He first heard about music therapy over 10 years ago–before we met–after getting his first college teaching job.
Given his first-hand experience of the power of music, he was very interested in learning about music therapy…and, more specifically, in the difference between music therapy and music education.
So he talked to this colleagues. And, over the years, one of them gave an interesting, simplified explanation of the difference between music education and music therapy:
Music education is “music learning.” Music therapy is “music re-learning.”
I’ve thought about this statement a lot. Do I agree with it…or not?
To an extent, it makes sense. Say you work in a rehab setting. You’re working with someone who has Parkinson’s and you’re using rhythm to help them “re-learn” how to walk. To re-teach their motor system to work more efficiently.
Or maybe you work in mental health. You’re working with an adult client, using music to help them understand their current thoughts and behaviors so they can “re-learn” new ones.
But what if you work with children? You can’t really say they’re “re-learning” something, because they haven’t learned it in the first place, right?
Chances are, though, that if you work with children, you’re helping them learn skills…in an adaptive way. With that in mind, perhaps this is a better distinction between the two:
Music education is “music learning.” Music therapy is “music re-learning and adaptive learning.”
I know this is an over-simplification. There are lots of nuances and complexities in our field that can’t be summed up in one statement. But as a profession, we also are looking for ways to define ourselves in terms the “layperson” can understand. So trying to create a concise statement like this can be helpful.
With that in mind, what are YOUR thoughts on this statement? Keeping in mind that this is a statement describing the difference between music therapy and music ed…what do you think fits? What do you disagree with? Please leave a comment in the boxes below to share your thoughts!