Written by Bonnie Houpt (MT-BC), Music Therapist and Owner of Rhythmic Roots Music Services, LLC
According to the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA), music therapy is “the clinical & evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program.” Essentially, music is the vehicle to work on goals led by a board-certified music therapist. I received my certification through the University of Georgia’s degree program, which included an undergraduate degree and an internship.
Many types of clinical populations and people can benefit from music therapy. This includes “children, adolescents, adults, and the elderly with mental health needs, developmental and learning disabilities, Alzheimer's disease and other aging related conditions, substance abuse problems, brain injuries, physical disabilities, and acute and chronic pain, including mothers in labor.”
Many of the clients I serve are disabled, including individuals with Autism and Down Syndrome. One thing that I like to make sure parents know is that you do not have to be talented at music to receive the benefits of music therapy. An interest in music is more important than “talent” to use music to work on clinical goals, and improvement in musical skills can grow over time.
There are many possible benefits and goals domains that music therapy can address, including cognitive, communication, motor, emotional, and sensory goals.
There is a vast amount of research backing the effectiveness of music and music therapy on these different domains. For example, rhythm has been shown to affect overlapping brain networks in speech and music areas of the brain to improve speech. The brain is also affected by music in music therapy as synchronization to a beat has shown to improve motor skills, such as fine or gross motor, through neuroplasticity, changes in brain connection.
Many of my clients recently have been working on emotional goals as making music with others can improve depression, anxiety, social resilience, and mental wellbeing. Music therapy can also reduce stress, including activities that reduce tension or directly address relaxation.
Music therapy will look different depending on the individual client and their needs and the philosophy and approach of the board-certified music therapists. In general, types of music interventions and experiences include instrument playing, songwriting, singing, listening to
music, musical games, improvisation, and moving to music. Client preferred music, like your kid’s favorite song, is the most common genre of music used in music therapy sessions.
Music therapists are trained to provide music therapy through a clinical process that starts with an assessment period. These sessions typically include the music therapist getting to know their client and assessing what goals to best address in the treatment period of music therapy.
If you are in Colorado, consider searching for a music therapist through the Colorado Association for Music Therapy’s online directory or Wayfinder. In the US, you can also search for music therapists through the American Music Therapy Association’s registry. You can also check someone’s credentials in the US on the Certification Board of Music Therapy.
Bonnie graduated from the University of Georgia with a Bachelor of Music in Music Therapy in 2018 where she studied percussion as her primary instrument for four years with piano, voice, and guitar as secondary instruments. During her studies, Bonnie served as the president of the University of Georgia’s Music Therapy Student Association, serving both the Athens, GA community and the University’s music therapy students and department.
Bonnie completed her music therapy internship and provided music therapy at the Madonna School in Omaha, NE, a private school for students with disabilities. After her internship and graduation, Bonnie moved to Colorado and has provided music therapy and adapted lessons for a population she is passionate about: individuals with disabilities including autism, cerebral palsy, Down Syndrome, and other intellectual and physical disabilities. Bonnie has also worked with older adults.
Studying percussion formed the roots of rhythm that is present and a significant force in Rhythmic Roots Music Services, LLC’s services. Every individual deserves opportunities to improve their lives, and music is an effective vehicle for change and quality of life that Bonnie at Rhythmic Roots Music Services, LLC provides.