One of the questions I frequently get asked when I tell people what I do goes something along the lines of:
"So, do you just play different songs for people to make them feel better? What songs do you use? How do you choose the right ones?"
As someone who works in the field, I've always found this question a bit odd. However, once you examine where it comes from, you get a better understanding of not just people's conception of music therapy, but as healthcare as a whole.
We've discussed the paradigm shift in healthcare from a disease-centered approach to a patient-centered approach at length on this blog. When you move the focus from the disease to the patient, several important factors change:
- A holistic approach gains more importance
- Decisions are made by health teams rather than individuals who do not communicate
- Healthy living becomes more of a long term mission rather than a short term "recipe."
Music therapy fits perfectly into this mold. Not only can music therapy address a client's physiological needs, but their emotional, cognitive, and spiritual needs as well. Collaboration is highly important in music therapy. And of course, there is no "recipe" for success, but rather music therapy utilizes individualized plans for each client based on their needs.
It's from this "disease-centered" view of medicine that I think our original question stems from. Most of us are conditioned to a formulaic approach to wellness.
Ailment + Pill = Health
So when you hear about this "music therapy" thing, of course your initial idea is:
Ailment + Song = Health
However, this formula is missing several vital variables. The client's preferences, the client's individual needs, the client's cultural background, their age, the setting, etc. I don't think there really is a "formula" to follow.
When I say there's not a "formula," I certainly don't mean to say that there is no evidence-base for what we do. I think a more appropriate analogy might be that of a nutritionist. While certain truisms carry across clients (to lose weight, you must burn more calories than you consume), it's not as simple as saying "Acid reflux? Eat more of this, eat less of that."
It's a brave new world of healthcare, one that examines all of a patient's needs, and when our focus is on the individual, patients win.
Interested in learning more about music therapy? Come visit our clinic and meet with our staff! Sign up for a free consultation below.
Image credit: Flickr user e-MagineArt.com