Sorry, iPods Aren't Music Therapy

You know how every time there's some new, inspiring viral video making the rounds through Facebook, there's always some dude somewhere who has to spoil all the fun? He rains on the Ice Bucket Challenge. He tells you that video with the person overcoming adversity is staged. Psh, who needs that guy?

Well...I'm afraid I have to be that guy for a minute.

You might have heard about a documentary making the rounds at film festivals lately titled Alive Inside. A clip from the movie has made several viral rounds through the social networks:


It's easy to see why this was popular. The transformation that takes place right before our eyes is phenomenal! In fact, it's the top listing on YouTube when you search "music and Alzheimer's"


But here's the problem: it also comes up as the top search result for "music therapy and Alzheimer's"


Full disclosure: the clip in the second image was stolen and uploaded by a YouTube user unrelated to the film project. It also doesn't mention the phrase "music therapy" in the title or description of the video.

However, it raises the point that many people don't understand the difference between putting headphones on a medical patient and music therapy.

And I think this documentary could serve to further blur the line between music in medicine and music therapy. Our national organization met with the filmmakers, edited the script to clarify and correct misleading statements, and even recommended the re-filming of certain scenes. These recommendations were unheeded.

I'm not opposed to music listening programs for patients with Alzheimer's, but it's also important to note that "awakening" a person with dementia or Alzheimer's is not as simple as throwing together a playlist of old songs and putting headphones on them. Furthermore, it's important to understand that this is far from music therapy.

Listening to an iPod is no more music therapy than watching a football game is physical therapy.

A music therapist might use an iPod and reflective listening in a session, just as a physical therapist might use sports analogies, balls, and more. But the difference is understanding the therapeutic "know-how" to elicit appropriate, meaningful responses, know how to handle unintended responses, and extract therapeutic benefits for the patient that last after the song is over and the headphones are taken off.

So what does music therapy look like with older adults? How can I use music effectively with my advanced aged loved one?

I'm glad you asked! If you're in the metro-Atlanta area, you can attend our Music and Aging event at Arbor Terrace Crabapple on November 12th at 5:30! We'll be discussing how you can use music to connect with a loved one, the benefits and goals associated with music therapy and the aging, and more!

We hope you'll join us on November 12th!