Monday, July 1, 2013

Defining Music Therapy

As a learning music therapist it is sometimes difficult to describe music therapy to someone, especially someone who is skeptical.  I have had people ask me if our purpose is to play song request and make someone happy, or to teach music to people.  My response to questions like this is normally something along the lines of the therapist does whatever the client needs, which is usually a little more complex than simply playing a requested song.

One thing I try to stress is the fact that music therapy practices are based off of an assessment process and the treatment plans are based on goals and objectives that need to be addressed to improve the quality of life for the client.  Coming into this trip, the only perspective I had of music therapy was what I had seen in the KU clinics and videos we had seen in class.  At the KU clinic, the practicum students receive a client that they work with for the semester, and although the sessions look different according to the client and the client’s needs there is a very structured process of assessment, treatment plans, individual session plans, and progress notes.

However, this organized and methodical process is not quite the same here. While we come up with treatment goals and objectives based off of assessment, music therapy itself looks quite different here than it does back at the KU clinic.  In Thailand, there are several treatment facilities and rehabilitation centers that say they offer music therapy services.  In the United States, these services would be considered music activates as opposed to therapy because a board certified therapist does not facilitate these activities. 

When I first saw a session at Sirindhorn Rehabilitation Center in the adult daycare unit, I was very confused as to how it was a music therapy session.  Observing the session the week before I was taking it over, I thought I would get some ideas for applications and facilitations to do the following week.  What I saw during the session however appeared to me like a sing-a-long, which is everything I ave learned to say music therapy is not.  
The facilities at Sirindhorn Rehabilitation Center

I was upset by the way the session was done, and I wanted to do something else that I considered music therapy.  From my perspective, what was occurring during this session was not therapeutic.  I struggled with this concept and many other students I talked to had the same experience and confusion about therapy practices here.  On the way home from the first session I facilitated, I talked to Melissa Hill who has been doing her internship here for the past six months.  She told me that although what I am doing may not seem therapeutic to me, it does not have to be.  The session is for the clients. 

Because the caregivers and the clients and the nurses all attended theses sessions at Sirindhorn, the session is geared towards interaction between them all.  The clients at Sirindhorn are taken care of and work with physical therapist, occupational therapists, and see other medical care professionals, but the caregivers that take them to the rehabilitation center and care for them at home need care themselves, which is something that we were able to provide during our sessions.  The caregivers and clients were able to interact with one another in a non-stressful, fun environment that we were able to provide, and this is what was therapeutically beneficial for them. 
Our last day at Sirindhorn where we received leis from a grateful caregiver. 
At first glance, I was unable to see the value in the session here, and I had to rethink what I call music therapy.  I had a very pinpointed, narrow definition that was based off of what paperwork and formalities I would go through to plan and facilitate a session back home.  What I learned from this experience is that the therapy part of music therapy is really the most important part, which is dependent on what the clients consider therapeutic and beneficial.  Although my definition of therapy coming into this trip consisted of the procedures and paperwork behind the scenes, I would now describe it as facilitating applications to create an environment in which therapeutic objectives can be reached, and those therapeutic objectives depend on what the client needs.

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