Articles for June 2014

Consistency: The Second Reason Weekly Music Therapy Sessions Are Important

In my last post, I stated that having weekly music therapy sessions supports social skill development and retention (read that post here).

Group drumming supports neurological and physiological growthThe second reason that I feel weekly music therapy sessions are important is Consistency. Having sessions every week allows participants to understand the routine, they enjoy attending and look forward to the groups. Consider the case of Alan, a 15 year old boy diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Most days Alan doesn’t like to get up and get ready for school in the morning, but on Wednesday, he knows the music therapist is coming and his mom reports that this is the only day of the week that he gets ready for school independently.  Andrew is a 17 year old student that participates in music therapy at his after-school program. His mother shared that every Tuesday morning he reminds her that he has music therapy and doesn’t want her to pick him up early. Then there is my friend Walter, who awaits my arrival in the day room of his Skilled Nursing Facility every Monday so he can request his favorite songs.  Music therapy is important to the participants and having a consistent schedule builds confidence and trust and gives them a way to be proactive about their healthy lifestyle habits.

In addition to motivation there is another benefit of consistent weekly music therapy sessions. Every session that I do is structured to meet goals and objectives of each individual, even in the group setting. Within the structure are rules of behavior, such as how to hold an instrument and play it appropriately, how to answer questions and interact with the therapist and other participants. When I ask children to do something, I am communicating using words and music, and I am also communicating visually by using gestures, sign language, pictures calendarand facial expressions which improve comprehension. The participants remember the structure more easily and those social skills transfer to other areas of daily life when the sessions are held weekly.

In the next post I will address what I believe may be the strongest reason to provide music therapy sessions at least once per week and that is the physiological and neurological changes that happen in the body when participating in music therapy.

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Social Skill Development and Retention: The First Reason Weekly Music Therapy Sessions are Important

A recent survey of music therapists reported that the majority of therapists see clients in weekly 50min sessions, some in groups and some individual sessions, in order to maximize treatment goals and objectives (Kern, P, et al., Journal of Music Therapy, 50(4), 2013, 274–303). The survey didn’t include why music therapists chose to treat clients weekly as opposed to once or twice per month. But I can tell you three reasons why I believe weekly sessions are important. They are; Social skill development and retention, consistency, and physiological and neurological changes.

calendarThe first issue to examine is Social Skills Development and Retention – One of the primary ways that music therapists get people to interact with the music is to create a trusting environment. This is important whether or not your client is a young child with developmental delays or and older adult recovering from stroke or anything in between. And this is also necessary whether it is an individual or a group setting. As a therapist I provide opportunities for clients to get involved in the music making. I am inviting them to play an instrument they may have never played before, and to sing and move in ways that may not be easy. In order for me to engage them, I need to provide a safe, friendly and motivating opportunity for that person to succeed. In order to build the level of trust, sessions must happen often enough that the client can remember the therapist, or at least the comfortable environment created by the therapist. When working with dementia patients this becomes a crucial element to support their functioning level, skill retention, and provide more opportunities for interaction. The patients in my memory care groups don’t remember my name, or what I do, but they do remember that they like me.Become actively involved in the music making!

Group sessions support social skill development and participants engage with other group members in meaningful and appropriate ways during the music making process. Each individual is encouraged to make choices such as what instrument to play or what song to sing. They are encouraged to participate in discussions and to work cooperatively in the music making. The more these skills are practiced the better the carry over into other areas of daily life.  ScienceDaily cited research from the Pertanika Journal that stated that weekly music therapy sessions can have a positive effect on behavior in children with autism.

In the next post I will explain the importance of consistency of weekly sessions.


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