What Music Therapy is NOT! by Margie La Bella of Music Therapy Tunes.

Hello reader,

In  the future I’ll try to offer an explanation of music therapy. Let me start things off by telling you what music therapy is NOT.   I’d love to hear from you about what your conversations on the topic entail. I work with young kids, so there is a lot more to say on this topic regarding other populations.  After reading this – – what do you think?

1) “Oh, so music soothes the savage beast?”  No. Heavy metal probably won’t calm a bucking horse. Bach won’t tame a hungry lion.  Carefully selected music specific for a certain effect as chosen by a trained and schooled professional may, however, lower blood pressure, heart beat, galvonic skin response and breath rate among other things . But that’s positive only if you want that response. It may also lower levels of cortisol in your saliva, perception of danger (think anxiety over medical procedures) and pain levels. And specially prepared and selected music may lower levels of anesthesia during surgery and pain medication post surgery.

2) “What about the “Mozart Effect?” Won’t music make by baby smart, immune from sickness, more social, digest it’s food better, sleep better, and require fewer diaper changes? No. What Mozart and other gentle classical music WILL do is provide a more calm and restful, relaxed atmosphere for your baby to progress  in an  environment more conducive to healthy development.  You still need to be a good parent and appropriate music for your baby is wonderful. But having it in the background does not a valedictorian make. (P.S. I guess I haven’t really written about Don Cambell’s work or the tested Mozart Effect. Sorry! I guess they both have to do with putting the brain into a real and beneficial “ready state.” )

Certain classical pieces are played at tempos that “jive” with or make the body “sinc up”  with helpful tempos. Different brain waves operate at different tempos/speeds. Your heart, breath and other functions operate best at certain tempos. There is a powerful, measurable human condition  by which we tend to sinc up and match with what is going on around us. This phenomenon is called entrainment .Definition: 1.To pull or draw along after itself.2. Chemistry To carry (suspended particles, for example) along in a current. (from the online Free Dictionary, whatever that is.)   Entrainment Plays an important role in music therapy.  This is why music can have such a positive effect on us – or negative effect. Something to possibly think about.

3) “How nice is that! You must just love it!”  It is and I do! But music is a part of our present culture and social climate that is often taken for granted. It’s everywhere. It’s like oxygen.Vital.  Imagine today’s society with no music in the grocery store, on computers, phones, movies, advertisements, TV shows, radios, radio ads, computers, plays, games, instruments, social programs, restaurants, bars  or offices. It’s so ubiquitous that we forget what it’s actually doing TO US. It is a powerful and significant force! It is just as meaningful as any other type of therapy be it physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy etc.   I love that comment because ” It is and I do” but those words open up a door for conversation about what music therapy really is on a deeper level.     🙂

4) All (fill in the blanks) Kids just automatically love and respond so well to music!  Well yes, but- what music will have what effect?  My job is to figure out which music will have a desired response. Then, some teachers tell me certain kids “don’t like” music.  Those children may have sensory systems that desire sameness and get stressed out with different sounds, or loud sounds, or soft sounds. What about high pitches and low pitches? Medium? (I wear cotton in my ears all day bc I can’t tolerate the highs any more.) What about unexpected, unpredictable noises that can happen in a music therapy class with 11 other children?  What if the way certain instruments look and play scare them? Ew, what if they don’t want to, or can’t reach out and touch an instrument? So many factors. What if the kids who Love music only want to play certain songs and never others? (Like Happy Birthday…..)  What if they space out to music and actually de-focus or get distracted by the combination of sounds. Or can’t tell one sound from another and “tune out?”  What if the music brings out the sadness of life events to a child, which is not necessarily a bad thing.

This is where the specifically trained music therapy professional with LOTS of experience and knowledge comes in. My next blog will talk about what music therapy IS and about the training of a music therapist. What do you think about this??  I’m curious.

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