In my practice I receive many inquiries about music therapy. What is it? Who can benefit? Would it be appropriate? But every once and a while someone will ask if I teach music lessons to individuals with learning or developmental delays. I do offer adapted lessons along with music therapy.
But what’s the difference between music therapy and an adapted music lesson? One main difference is that music therapy is intended to address non-musical goal areas, including speech, communication, motor planning, cognition, social skills, and emotional well-being. Music is simply the tool that is used to address these areas of need. Music lessons address the learning of musical skills, which can include how to play an instrument or sing, read music, music theory, aural theory, and so on.
Another difference between music therapy and adapted music lessons is how music is used in the session or lesson. In music therapy, the music therapist may use a variety of musical interventions to address their client’s non-musical goals, including structured or improvised instrument play, singing, song writing, lyric analysis, movement to music, or music listening. In an adapted music lesson the teacher will use a modified approach to teaching music, including the use of visual aids or modified tuning.
Another difference is that a only a board-certified music therapist can provide music therapy services. This person must not only graduate with at least a bachelors or equivalency degree in music therapy, they must also pass a board-certification exam given by the Certification Board for Music Therapists in order to practice as a music therapist. To give music lessons it is not necessary to hold a degree in music therapy, or even music in general. It is preferred, but not a requirement.
What about teaching an adapted lesson? In my experience, a music therapist can provide adapted lessons, but someone else who provides music lessons (music teacher, freelance musician, etc) can also do the job if they understand that their student may not learn music in the traditional sense and need extra support to do so. It is ultimately up to the parent to decide if this person is right for their child, or if they should seek out someone who has experience working with individuals with special needs.
However there are some similarities between the two.
- Being successful at learning music and in music therapy builds confidence. I remember how excited and proud of myself I was after I played my first solo on the saxophone in my middle school Christmas concert. I also see how excited my music therapy clients become after successfully accomplishing a skill in their session that had once been difficult for them.
- They both foster creativity and encourage different forms of self-expression.
- Both provide an outlet to connect with others on a deeper level.
Ultimately, it comes down to what you think is best for your child or loved one. If you are not sure whether an adapted lesson or music therapy would be appropriate for your loved one, you can find a music therapist in your area and they can help you make that decision.
If you’re a fan of Carly Litvik Music Therapy Services on Facebook, you would have seen a video of one of my students playing a duet with me earlier this week. And if you are not yet a fan, go over to our page and “like” us by clicking on the box at the bottom of the page.
Here he is again, and I couldn’t be prouder of him! (Video posted with parental permission)