Music Therapy vs. Music and Health Modalities Chart

Comparison of music and health fields

Comparison of music and health fields

Today, there are many options for those looking to positive impact their health through music. In an attempt to educate myself, I took the time to make a chart comparing nine music and health fields according to their definitions, training, populations, utilized techniques, and governing bodies.

Music and Health Modalities Chart

Above is the link to the full chart exploring the similarities and differences between Music Therapy, Musicians on Call, Music Thanatology, Music and Memory Program, Sound Healing, Therapeutic Music, Music Practitioners, Clinical Musicians, and Harp Therapy. I hope to learn and collaborate with professionals in all these fields in the future!

All information was taken as accurately as possible from the website of the governing associations for each field listed. I am not an expert in all of these fields. If anyone from the above-mentioned professions or programs finds an inaccuracy, please contact me and I’d be happy to correct the oversight.

Two Years Out: What Keeps Me Going

I still consider myself a “newbie” to the music therapy, but find myself more dedicated to the field after passing my second anniversary of clinical practice. In addition to a deeper confidence and greater flexibility while leading sessions (which is a great feeling!), I feel this second year has led me to lose some of the idealism around music therapy I held a few years ago. And that’s not a bad thing.

As a student and into my first year of practice, when people would ask me why I decided to go into music therapy, my pat answer would be, “I want to help people and I love music. Music therapy combines my two passions!” This wasn’t a bad or misleading answer, but as I start my third year as a clinician I’ve decided this isn’t a complete justification for my career.

In the three and a half years since graduation, I’ve been surprised with how many new professional colleagues have or considered moving into a different field (some maintaining the MT-BC credential and others not). From my graduating class, people have moved into administrative positions, gone to graduate school in counseling, and looked into becoming occupational therapists or music educators. Everyone has their own paths and I can see the value in diversifying one’s background in today’s job market. In comparison, I find myself examining my choice to continue my music therapy studies at the graduate level with full understanding of the challenges of being a music therapist. The starting pay leaves something to be desired, full-time work can be difficult to find, and the continual need for advocacy sometimes make your passion feel more like a chore. What has kept me going?

Working in a supportive environment and chances to advocate in my state association have prevented me from burnout while taking on a greater ownership of my job. Evolving my idealistic, oversimplified version of music therapy (altruism + music = great sessions!) has led to a more robust rationale for what I do. Today, I would say I’m a music therapist for many reasons: our system of healthcare and clients deserve innovation, music therapy offers creative approaches to resolve challenges, and I want to know how music can impact the brain in unforeseen ways. This new creed offers no simple formula because music therapy itself is not about “business as usual”.

Passing my board certification exam two and a half years ago did not mean I fully understood what music therapy is. I continue to mature as a clinician, but am thankful for the opportunities and responsibilities provided to me that have led to a deeper appreciation for my field. Here’s to insights, inquiries, and challenges of the next year.


Establishing Therapeutic Rapport with Children

Until a few years ago, I felt very awkward around kids and was worried that I might always be an amateur when it came to being a music therapist with young children. Not being a parent, my first extended encounter with young children came when I moved across the country for internship and worked as a part-time nanny. I had always liked kids for obviously cute reasons, but I was never someone that children were drawn to. Instead, I was mystified and convinced myself that some people had charisma with children and some did not.

I’m happy to report that after three years of nannying and teaching countless early childhood music classes, I’ve started de-mystifying what it takes to establish a friendly relationship with a child. As a music therapist, this rapport is essential to gaining a child’s trust and engaging a young client on a developmentally-appropriate, but fair, level. Speaking down to or patronizing a child will get you nowhere. Below are three ideas for establishing your own style of kid-friendly rapport.

1. Give the Child a Role. Kids love being right and in charge. Giving them a chance to shine and take a small responsibility shows that you trust the child and want to interact with them, instead of being the therapist who is always in charge. This can be a simple as asking to choose their favorite animal to add to Old MacDonald’s farm, requesting help in cleaning up instruments, or having them say their own name in a hello song.

Even better, give them the chance to correct you. Once, I had a boy in my music classes who didn’t readily engage in activities even after attending 3-4 times. He often sat in his mother’s lap with a blank expression on his face without much reaction to any song. While I was talking with his mom after class, I asked him if he knew “You Are My Sunshine”. He nodded and I started singing it, but there was still no reply. When I got to the last line, I decided to change the lyrics into “Please don’t take my sunshine…to school!”. His lit up and grinned. Instead of singing to him, we were now figuring out this song together. I tried again, “Please don’t take my sunshine…to the fire station?” Here was his big chance to be right. “Away!” he yelled. Disrupting his expectations for the lyrics also removed his expectations for the social roles and hierarchy he had assigned to both of us as teacher/student.

2. Speak (and Sing) Expressively. We know that children learn through emotions and speech. Combining these two dynamically can help music therapists communicate to children more effectively, which in turn helps reach their goals and objectives. But, dynamic expression was initially awkward for me. I felt stiff when forcing myself to look extra happy or emphasize my vocal range when talking because I was paying too much attention to how the adults nearby were perceiving my actions.

Realizing that the kids with whom I was working were soaking up all the emotional and social cues my exaggerated movements and speech offered got me to loosen up. All of these non-verbal communication clues are new and un-established in young children; amplifying these behaviors is a teaching tool that also builds relationships. In short, if you feel like you’re emphasizing too much, you’re probably just right.

3. Treat the Child with Respect. Yes, the music therapist is “in charge” and leads the session, but this doesn’t mean abandoning person-centered actions. Children realize when they are being talked down to or patronized. If they feel their efficacy as a participant in the session is compromised, so does the effectiveness of the therapeutic relationship and the session interventions.

To communicate that you and the child are on a level playing field make sure to acknowledge and verbalize interactions in a similar (if not simpler) way you might with an adult client. When collecting instruments, you can ask their permission with, “Are you finished with that scarf?” before declaring clean up time. Apologizing for any missteps (either real or as perceived by the child) is as simple as, “I’m so sorry that we didn’t have time to sing “Let It Go” this time. Next week if we finish playing drums instead of _____, we will have time to sing it.” Of course, safety is always a priority and our politeness may (briefly) be dropped in order to protect the child’s physical well-being if needed.

Those of you who have worked with young children, what are other child-centered techniques you utilize to establish a therapeutic rapport?