Music has always been enjoyable in my life, playing instruments, singing, dancing, and simply listening to it as a hobby. I especially think positively of listening to music, matching each songs or pieces to the mood at the moment. Also, as I study sport and exercise psychology, I tend to think of music as a tool that can be related to emotions. So, my first image of “music therapy” was only the passive kind, where the patient participates by listening to the music therapeutically. This image was changed by Olivier Brabant, a PhD student in this field, when he explained to the class of 2017 Summer Course how music therapy is more than just listening to calm music or “sound healing.”
What I understood from his short session on music therapy is that music may be more than just another therapeutic technique. It can be the source of comfort and empathy, which is traditionally the role of a therapist. More importantly but most of the time neglected, is that it can also be used as a tool for expressing the patients’ thoughts and feelings, which therapists can analyze. For some people, playing music with different kinds of instruments can be an easier way for them to express themselves than talking about what they are thinking or feeling. A music therapist can pick up these expressions, or start conversations on how the play went.
What I thought the most benefit from music therapy (or art therapy as a whole) was that the client could enjoy the overall sessions. With music (singing, dancing, playing instruments), therapies are usually considered non-threatening, and more fun to people of all ages. Music was historically and still is nowadays widely enjoyed and easy to approach in many different cultures. It is also true that music therapy can apply to diverse target populations, and can help various patients with depression, rehabilitation, post-traumatic stress, autism, and so much more.
In conclusion, it seems that there is more than what meets the eye (or the ear) for music therapy. The class with Olivier at the Music Therapy Clinic was an easy and concise introduction to music therapy and its implications, which definitely caught my attention and broke all the misconceptions I have had about it. It would have been much better to go in detail with several examples of different studies and therapeutic session of music therapy. As it was mentioned at the end of the week-long course, it would still be very interesting to have a course uniquely for music therapy and/or the “psychological part” of music cognition.
By Jinyoung (Jinny) Choi