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 What is Music Therapy? 

Music therap
y is an established complementary health care profession that uses music to increase or maintain quality of life by producing predictable, positive changes in the brain and body. Both live and recorded music are used to improve intellectual, emotional, social, physical, and physiological areas of function.

Highly trained and nationally certified music therapists utilize the inherent characteristics of music to address the needs of each individual, creating a unique treatment experience. Music therapy is not limited to those with musical talent or experience, nor is it restricted to a single musical genre.

The effectiveness of music therapy is due to music's ability to stimulate specific areas of the brain, which then triggers reactions throughout the entire system. Furthermore, music therapy is often beneficial for people who are affected by cognitive or neurological impairments, even when they are unresponsive or resistant to other treatment approaches. Music accesses the functional, "musical" regions of the brain that compensate for damaged ones while the brain builds new neural pathways to bypass the damaged areas. As a result, music therapists are able to attain non-musical goals in addition to creating meaningful and successful musical experiences despite physical or cognitive limitations.

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 Benefits of Music Therapy

Music therapy outcomes are achieved through a variety of therapeutic music interventions featuring adapted music creation, music-aided learning strategies, music-facilitated relaxation techniques, sensory and cognitive stimulation, movement to music, and music-guided reminiscence and discussion. Some of the benefits of these types of interventions include but are not limited to:
  • Improved cognitive function in attention span, memory recall, problem solving, academic skills, etc.
  • Decreased stress, anxiety, and/or agitation
  • Non-pharmacological management of pain
  • Increased self-esteem and sense of control
  • Positive changes in mood
  • Enhanced coping skills
  • Meaningful and appropriate interaction with peers and loved ones
  • Decreased nausea
  • Increased awareness of and interaction with environment
  • Self-expression and adapted communication
  • Improved quality of sleep
  • Increased adherence to and effectiveness of rehabilitative therapy or exercise
  • Decreased confusion/disorientation
  • Increased comfort at end of life
  • Decreased combativeness during cares
  • Increased tolerance of sensory stimuli

 Who Can Practice Music Therapy?

Music therapists work in many different settings with a variety of populations. A bachelor's degree in music therapy or an equivalency certificate (in addition to a bachelor's degree in another field of study) from an accredited university, along with the completion of 1,040 internship hours, are required to practice music therapy. This training imparts a knowledge of music history and theory; the psychology, anatomy, and physiology of musical responses; and various diseases and disabilities. Following formal education and internship, therapists must also pass a na
tionally standardized certification exam in order to obtain the credential MT-BC, identifying them as board certified music therapists. Some therapists carry state licenses as well, depending on the state in which they work.

 Individual Music Therapy Sessions

Individual mu
ic therapy sessions allow for assessment of an individual's needs and strengths in order to tailor a personalized treatment approach with specific goals and objectives in mind. This type of session is the best option for managing pain, stress, anxiety, nausea, poor sleep, mood disturbances, and dementia-related behaviors in a variety of settings regardless of cognitive or physical function. Individual music therapy is also ideal for addressing delays due to developmental disabilities. Written documentation accompanies each session in a format that reports assessment of needs, plan for treatment, and intervention responses while coordinating with the documentation practices of a client's treatment setting.


 Group Music Therapy Sessions

Open Groups:
Designed for any number of participants that a given space allows without hindering its interactive nature, open group music therapy sessions are geared toward individuals with moderate to high cognitive function. Don't be fooled by the fun and creative facilitation style, however, as the purpose of this type of session goes beyond pure entertainment. Participants engage in reminiscence, reality orientation, social interaction, cognitive stimulation, and/or some active music-making. An outline of goals and objectives is provided for each session.

Focus Groups:
Focus groups involve up to 10 similarly functioning participants. A group of this size allows opportunities for group processes as well as individual attention, creating an ideal environment for those who need frequent physical, visual, and/or verbal cues to initiate and sustain active participation during tasks. A collective set of goals and objectives, which revolve around achieving and maintaining the highest level of independence possible, are determined for the group by the music therapist in conjunction with the group members' interdisciplinary team.

Sensory Groups:
The human organism requires a certain amount of multi-sensory input to ensure that the brain and body function properly and communicate effectively with one another. Sensory groups of 2-3 individuals build up sensory tolerance to appropriate levels and reverse the signs of inadequate stimulation including aggression, restlessness, irritability, reduced interaction with others and their environment, tactile defensiveness or hypersensitivity, decline in communication skills, and postural or other motor changes. A small group size is necessary to provide the amount of one-to-one interaction required by individuals with sensory needs, who typically display short attention spans and difficulty initiating interaction with their environment. Every session includes documentation for each participant to report assessment of sensory needs, individualized treatment goals, and progress toward overall sensory integration.

 The Living O.A.K.S. Program

Just as the resilient oak trees have grown and matured to lend their attributes to our community through the years, so too have our elders helped establish the community in which we now live. This program was born out of respect for the contributions of senior citizens with services specifically designed to serve them. Living O.A.K.S. is a music therapy program specifically designed to serve senior citizens by addressing functional abilities and problem behaviors of dementia as they affect interpersonal relationships and caregiver stress. The music therapist OBSERVES the needs and strengths of the individual with dementia. Then, the therapist facilitates ADAPTATIONS using music as a tool for change to improve communication, provide adequate levels of sensory stimulation, and manage negative behaviors while increasing caregiver KNOWLEDGE of the disease process and how to use music as a caregiving tool in the home. In addition, STRESS management strategies are established for both the caregiver and their loved one. Our music therapists all have specialized training in therapeutic music interventions targeted to individuals with dementia and are Certified Dementia Practitioners®.