Music as therapy vs. Music in therapy

Many allied health professionals are aware of the therapeutic effect of music and many have utilized music in their session with clients.  However, this has created many confusions to the general public as to what is true music therapy and who are the truly trained music therapists especially if the term “music in therapy” is casually used.

A distinction has been made between music as therapy and music in therapy by Bruscia (1998):

Music as therapy:

1.  “In music as therapy, music serves as the primary medium and agent for therapeutic change, exerting a very direct influence on the client and his/her health.  In this approach, the therapist’s main goal is to help the client relate to or engage in the music, thus serving as a guide or facilitator who has the expertise neede to prescribe the appripriate music or music experience for the client.”

2. “In music as therapy, music is the focus of therapy, thereby serving as the primary medium or agent for therapeutic intercention, interaction, and change, while the personal relationship between client and therapist and the use of other arts or therapeituc modalities provide a context which facilitates that focus.”

3.  When music is used as therapy, music is the foreground.

Music in therapy:

1.  “In music in therapy, music is used not only for its own healing properties but also to enhance the effects of the therapist-client relationship or other treatment modalities (e.g. verbal discussion).  Here music is not the only or primary agent of change, and its use depends upon the therapist.  In this approach, the therapist’s main goal is to address the needs of the client through whatever medium seems most relevant or suitable, whether it be music, the relationship, or other therapeutic modalities.”

2.  “In music in therapy, the focus is on either the personal relationship between the client and therapist, or an experience in a modality other than music, while music provides the context or background which facilitates that focus.”

3.  When music is used in therapy, music is the background.

Music therapists can choose to use music as therapy or music in therapy, however, both processes must involve intervention by a trained music therapist.  In other words, any use of music for therapeutic benefit which does not involve a music therapist is not considered music therapy.  In addition, any form of intervention that does not involve music in assessment, treatment and evaluation is also not considered as music therapy.  Music therapists who are trained in the United States hold the credential MT-BC.  When in doubt, their credential can be verified with the Certification Board for Music Therapist at: Last but not least, although music does not belong to music therapists, but if one would like to receive authentic music therapy intervention, it is wise to seek a truly trained music therapist.

*Author: Tan, L. P. (2007)


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