During music therapy awareness month, we want to share some of the reasons why we believe music therapy is so successful. One of my favorite things about being a music therapist is the structure of each session. As music therapists, our goal is to create a session full of structure and familiarity with our clients that is also easily adaptable. As a Type A individual and lover of schedules and organization, this is obviously one of my favorite things!
I also love that we often give our clients choices when creating their schedule. They are an active part in creating their own schedule and they feel a sense of gratification and improved self-esteem when they are asked to help and make their own choices. With many of my clients, I draw a box next to each activity and allow them to draw a smiley face in the box if they completed the task while following instructions. This is a great motivator for them as many of them take pride in something as simple as drawing a smiley-face! If they get all of their smiley-faces, at the end of the session they receive their “reward” which varies depending on the client.
A typical music therapy session looks like this:
· Hello Song-We sing the same hello song in every session to provide structure and familiarity for our clients. Our hello songs work on appropriate greetings, eye contact, recall, and expressive language and they are typically sung to the tune of a familiar song.
· Movement-We like to begin each session by getting oxygen to the brain so that our session will be more efficient.
· Instrument Play-During instrument play we work on fine motor skills (isolation of fingers on piano and bells or grasping a mallet), gross motor skills (reaching up, crossing midline, playing the drum bilaterally), directional skills (up high, down low) and dynamics (play soft, loud, slow, fast).
· Therapeutic Singing-Singing is an incredible way to disconnect from pain, disappointments and negative thoughts and release stored muscle tension that is built up in many of our clients for various reasons. It decreases the levels of cortisol (a stress hormone) in the blood stream and is a natural way to uplift our clients and make them feel happy.
· Songwriting-Songwriting allows our clients to express themselves in a creative way. They will often open up to us if we are giving them musical support while providing a listening ear. Many times, songwriting helps children who have difficulty understanding emotions explore and discuss those emotions and talk about problem solving.
· Goodbye-As with the hello song, we sing the same goodbye song to end with familiarity. This intervention also focuses on appropriate greetings, eye contact, recall and expressive language.
-Hayley Echols, LPMT, MT-BC