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Importance of Music Therapy

By Katie Harrill, MT-BC, Janet Spink, MT-BC, and Kory Antonacci, MT-BC

The growing field of healthcare known as music therapy is an interpersonal process through which a board-certified music therapist uses music and all of its facets—physical, emotional, social, aesthetic, and spiritual—to help clients improve or maintain their health. With increasing frequency, music therapy is being used to aid and educate those with diagnosed with autism and other developmental disabilities. Music therapy can be structured in individual and group sessions to meet anyone's needs. Music is ideal for working towards goals such as self control, impulse control, and emotional regulation. In therapy, children may be required to wait, play loud or soft, and attend to others. Music therapists also often address other developmental skills, such as fine motor development, by utilizing a variety of small instruments. For example, holding and playing the triangle requires children to use both hands and coordinate them in a gentle manner, otherwise they will not be able to create the desired tone.

Music can help a child regulate their energy and emotions. If the child is calm, a lullaby may easily help a child to fall asleep or maintain a relaxed state. Energetic children will likely not initially respond to a slow, calm song. Instead, by using a bright, upbeat song to match their high energy and then gradually reducing the musical tempo (speed), music therapists can assist in relaxation and calming.

Older children and teenagers also benefit from music therapy. Lyric analysis is a technique where the individual or group reads and discusses the lyrics to a song and their meaning. By using music as a support for this exploration, participants may be better able to understand aspects of relationships and feelings, as well as recognizing other's perspectives. Individuals and groups can recreate the songs, either for a one-time experience or to work towards a performance. Song-writing is another experience, which involves writing lyrics, music, or both.

Music is very versatile, and when used by a music therapist, is an effective tool for addressing the strengths and difficulties for those all ages and abilities.

Creative Arts Services including music therapy can be obtained at our Wesley Spectrum Bridgeville, Gibsonia and Penn Hills locations. Additional programs at these locations include BHRS, WonderKds, AWES, Autism Outpatient and Parent Child Interaction Therapy. For information on any of these rewarding service options, contact our Admissions department at (412) 342-2270.

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