Making Music Matters

Music Therapy

One of our future initiatives is to offer music therapy services to children, youth, adults, and the elderly who may benefit physically, emotionally, socially, mentally, or intellectually from this form of therapy. While the profession of music therapy is relatively new, humans have been benefiting from the therapeutic properties of music for centuries. Today, through the modern techniques of music therapy, music can be used to treat health conditions or be used in a preventative or rehabilitative manner.

Music activities guided by a registered Music Therapist can offer significant benefits to those with:

  • Autism & other developmental disabilities
  • Learning disabilities
  • Behavioral disorders
  • Physical disabilities
  • Mental health needs
  • Brain injuries
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Cancer
  • Chronic or acute pain
  • Emotional trauma
  • Speech and language impairments
  • Hearing impairments
  • Visual impairments

Music Therapists: Intervention Techniques

Music therapists use various active and receptive intervention techniques according to the needs and preferences of the individuals with whom they work. These techniques include, but are not limited to the following:


Singing is a therapeutic tool that assists in the development of articulation, rhythm, and breath control. Singing in a group setting can improve social skills and foster a greater awareness of others. For those with dementia, singing can encourage reminiscence and discussions of the past, while reducing anxiety and fear. For individuals with compromised breathing, singing can improve oxygen saturation rates.  For individuals who have difficulty speaking following a stroke, music may stimulate the language centres in the brain promoting the ability to sing.

Rhythmic based activities can be used to facilitate and improve an individual's range of motion, joint mobility/agility/strength, balance, coordination, gait consistency and relaxation. Rhythm and beat are important in "priming" the motor areas of the brain, in regulating autonomic processes such as breathing and heart rate, and maintaining motivation or activity level following the removal of a musical stimulus. The use of rhythmic patterns can likewise assist those with receptive and expressive processing difficulties (i.e. aphasia, tinnitus) to improve their ability to tolerate and successfully process sensory information.

Composing / Songwriting is utilized to facilitate the sharing of feelings, ideas and experiences. For example, with hospitalized children, writing songs is a means of expressing and understanding fears. For people with a terminal illness, songwriting is a vehicle for examining feelings about the meaning in life and death. It may also provide an opportunity for creating a legacy or a shared experience with a caregiver, child or loved one, prior to death. Finally, lyric discussion and songwriting can help adolescents deal with painful memories, trauma, abuse, and express feelings and thoughts that are normally socially unacceptable, while fostering a sense of identification with a particular group or institution.

Playing instruments can improve gross and fine motor coordination in individuals with motor impairments or neurological trauma related to a stroke, head injury or a disease process. Instrumental ensembles can enhance cooperation, attention, and can provide opportunities for practicing various leadership-participant roles.  Playing instruments may assist those with prior musical experience to revisit previously learned skills, thereby allowing the individual to experience a renewed sense of pleasure and enjoyment. It can also develop increased well-being and self-esteem in those who are learning to play an instrument for the first time.

Improvising offers a creative, nonverbal means of expressing thoughts and feelings. Improvisation is non-judgmental, easily approached, and requires no previous musical training. As such, it helps the therapist to establish a three-way relationship between the client, themselves and the music. Where words fail or emotions are too hard to express, music can fill the void. Where trust and interaction with others has been comprised due to abuse or neglect, improvisation provides a safe opportunity for restoration of meaningful interpersonal contact. Where learning ability is limited, the opportunity to try different instruments, musical sounds, timbres and mediums may provide an opportunity for mastery of a new skill and increase life satisfaction.

Imagery based experiences, such as Guided Imagery and Music (GIM), can provide opportunities to reflect, process, and interact with unconscious or conscious material that may be reflected in an individual's life. Other expressive modalities, such as artwork and movement, can be used in combination with the music.


Listening to music has many therapeutic applications. It helps to develop cognitive skills such as attention and memory. For example, for those facing surgical procedures, it allows the individual an opportunity to exert a sense of control over their often unpredictable environment. During pregnancy, music listening can provide a connection between the uterine environment and the external environment following delivery. During childbirth music listening can facilitate and support the different stages by promoting relaxation and providing distraction for the labouring mother. In situations where cognitive perceptions are comprised, such as in early to mid stage dementia, listening can provide a sense of the familiar, and increase orientation to reality. For those with mental illnesses such as Schizophrenia or Bipolar Disorder, music listening can facilitate increased openness to discussion and provide motivation for engaging in social activity.

“Music Therapists:  Intervention Techniques”. 2006. February 27, 2011

For further information:


Canadian Association for Music Therapy

Canadian Music Therapy Trust

American Music Therapy Association

World Federation of Music Therapy


The Art & Science of Music Therapy (part 1), Berklee College

Oliver Sacks - Musicophilia - Alzheimer's/The Power of Music

Oliver Sacks - Musicophilia - Strokes, Language, and Music

Music Therapy:  Kenney’s Story

Music Therapy: Music Can Help Cancer Patients

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