Journicle Review: The Therapeutic Function of Music (TFM)

Music therapy is REALLY cool; but it can also be one of the toughest things to explain in a way that makes sense to others. As a graduate-equivalency student who came from a performance background, making the switch to music therapy required a change in mindset, routine, and overall priorities. To go from practicing 3-4 hours a day to reading 3-4 hours a day was a challenge that required a lot of self-control and determination. Achieving an understanding of music therapy practice can be a daunting task, but nonetheless a rewarding accomplishment to know how valuable music can be.


There was one thing that significantly fostered my understanding of music as a therapeutic tool: the Therapeutic Function of Music (TFM) Plan. The TFM Plan  is a conceptual methodology developed by Dr. Hanson-Abromeit from the University of Kansas. It was introduced to me my first semester in my Clinical Techniques for Children course. Though I was still very naive in my development as a student music therapist, the TFM Plan was one component of my education that just seemed to click with me in a variety of ways. The TFM Plan is basically designed as a teaching tool that articulates the relationship between the function of music as a therapeutic medium, the individualized needs and preferences of the client and expected outcomes.


It is organized so that each element of music serves a specific role in the therapeutic process. Additionally, the tool requires that each musical element is defined and explained through stating WHY it is necessary, WHAT it will do, and HOW it will look. For example, when organizing my thoughts this way I was able to develop an intervention to promote emotion identification in preschoolers by thinking about how major harmonies are often perceived as ‘happy’, while minor harmonies are on the contrary perceived as ‘sad’. Furthermore, I transferred this to relate to my own life in how when I exercise I will listen to preferred, energetic music with fast tempos, loud volume levels, and lots of rhythmic activity to increase my physiological arousal and motivate myself to continue exercising.


While the music itself and the process of music-based interventions can be complex, the TFM Plan can be helpful for students to organize their thoughts throughout that process. I continue to use the TFM Plan  to help my organization and planning for every client with whom I work. I recommend that all students beginning their studies in music therapy get their hands on the TFM Plan and begin to explore what role or function music plays in their own life.


I find myself wondering how this tool could be used to advocate for the profession. Could the TFM Plan also be used to explain to other non-musicians how music can be the therapy? Music therapists are in constant pursuit to explain to others the value and the purpose of what we do. My internship supervisors go above and beyond to explain to parents of patients receiving music therapy how the music is helping their child, what the music is doing to help their child, and why it is necessary to use a specific kind of music or music experience. Perhaps the TFM Plan is a stepping stone towards gaining more recognition and support that would help us bring music therapy into the lives of those who need it most.


Citation: Hanson-Abromeit, D. (2015). A conceptual methodology to define the therapeutic function of music plan. Music Therapy Perspectives, 33(1), 25-38. doi: 10.1093/mtp/miu061


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