Good Therapy Is A Creative Experience, Which Can Include Music
Good therapy is a creative experience, and a good therapist is there to help you take a more creative approach to making meaning, solving problems, and connecting with others. Just as they help you identify and develop your internal resources, each of our therapists also brings their own resources to the table, giving us more tools to work with and more options to try. First and foremost, music therapists are skilled clinicians dedicated to helping you find your best path to growth and well-being. While music therapists can and do use talk therapy, sometimes, you need to bypass words and get straight to feelings. That’s when music can step in.
What is Music Therapy?
Music therapy is an approach to psychotherapy that helps patients draw on some of the unique powers of music as a part of their therapeutic process. Whether they’re aware of it or not, everyone has a deeply personal connection to music, and music therapists are trained to help you make use of that connection in an intentional way. That may mean using music to explore and understand feelings, express yourself, or communicate in a new way. Music is an inherently creative act, and finding that creativity in music can often be the bridge to approaching our lives in a more creative way as well. By engaging in music with a therapist, we can step out of our comfort zones, allowing for the opportunity to do things differently.
But I don’t play an instrument! What if I’m not good at music?
Doesn’t matter! The music therapist will work with you to find the ways of using music that are best for you. This may include listening or playing, writing songs or improvising, drawing to music, sharing favorite songs, or something totally different. There will also be plenty of time when music isn’t what’s needed in that moment, and that’s fine, too.
Music Therapy with Children, Teens, and Families
Children communicate and interact with the world, and express themselves through play. Playing with a child means entering their world and meeting them on their level, which are always the first building blocks of therapy. Although we play in many different ways with kids in therapy, music is often an especially engaging, active, and interactive option, one in which kids can feel heard, while also benefiting from the structure and organization that musical play can provide. Music is a whole-brain activity, activating the creative, social, emotional and even, logical/problem-solving aspects of your child. It can promote skills like healthy problem-solving and frustration tolerance, regulating energy, and effective social skills.
As children grow into teens, music becomes a huge part of their identity. For instance, sometimes parents worry about their teens listening to “dark” or “scary” music, specifically that it’s “bringing them down.” But actually, it’s the opposite that’s going on. For teens, finding music that matches what they’re thinking or feeling may be the first way to receive the message that “you’re not alone.” Their music is and represents who they are and how they feel, so sharing that with another person in therapy can be a powerful path to feeling heard and understood.
Children aren’t the only ones who have a need to be heard. Often when families come together to therapy, it’s because they are struggling to feel like they can meet everyone’s needs in a cooperative, collaborative way. When music enters family therapy, it can help to create a sense of shared identity and meaning, to identify what is unique and valuable about their strengths, values and cultural heritage, and to open up a path to being able to work together to solve problems and overcome challenges.
What sort of training does a music therapist have? How does this work with insurance?
Music therapy is licensed by New York State and nationally certified. Music therapists hold Master’s degrees with training in psychology and music, and complete supervised internships, just like social workers, psychologists, and other creative arts therapists. Licensure is dependent on passing an examination and engaging in continuing education. At our office, many patients who have out-of-network benefits through their insurance company are able to use this benefit when seeing a music therapist, just as they would when seeing any other kind of therapist.
Whether Engaging In Music Or Not, Therapy Is An Improvisational Experience
Just like a group of musicians, human relationships are complicated interactions with complex roles and deep nuance. When everything is running smoothly, this can be a deeply enriching experience. However, when something goes wrong, the whole thing falls apart and one is often left feeling isolated, upset or confused. Therapy offers an opportunity to jump into a collaborative experience with another individual (the therapist) where it is safe to try out new ways of being in and relating to the world–essentially, to learn how to regain the musical flow. Whether we are actively engaging in music together or not, we view therapy, just like life, as an improvisational experience. Mental health does not mean “knowing all the answers” ahead of time; it means being good at coming up with solutions as the need arises.