What is Music Therapy?

Music therapy specialists are a group of professionals who provide specific music experiences in order to enhance health. Music therapy techniques include opportunities to listen and make music based on individualized goals and treatment objectives.

What is Music Therapy used for?

Music therapy is an effective treatment in encouraging weight gain and self-regulation in premature infants, reducing anxiety and pain related to surgical procedures, and helping individuals cope with the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. Children who are challenged by physical, emotional, and cognitive delays can benefit from music therapy by working towards increased physical strength and mobility, learning how to express their feelings in an effective way without hurting others, and by introducing music activities within their academic goals to increase memory and help problem solving. Finally, older adults suffering from dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and those who are frail from the effects of aging can benefit from music therapy in terms of reminiscing, moving and dancing to music for physical conditioning.

Who Provides Music Therapy?

Music therapists are individuals who have completed specific educational requirements from universities and colleges approved by the American Music Therapy Association. The educational requirements include classes covering information about how to perform music, counseling techniques, and specific music therapy interventions. There are approximately 70 universities and colleges throughout the United States that offer undergraduate degrees in music therapy. Typically, these degree programs are located within a university’s music school.

Once a student has passed all of his or her courses and successfully completed a clinical internship, s/he can take a certification exam. After passing this exam, they use the credential board-certified music therapist (MT-BC). This is the credential that lets health care consumers know an individual is competent to practice as a music therapist.

What should I expect when I go see a Music Therapist?

While music therapists work in a variety of settings, there is a basic format that can be expected regardless of where the therapy takes place.

Assessment (What are your needs?)

The purpose of an assessment is to find out what the patient’s specific needs and strengths are. This information is gathered by the therapist through a variety of methods. One method may involve the therapist talking with the patient to find out what is most important to him/her. Another method may include the therapist and patient making or listening to music together to determine what the patient can do and identify areas of need.

Plan (What are we going to do about it?)

After the assessment, the music therapist will create a plan that includes a series of goals and objectives. The goals and objectives are created from the assessment, including the patient’s desires. The assessment, goals and objectives will also help the therapist determine what types of music therapy techniques are going to work best with that particular individual.

Evaluation (Is our plan working?)

After the therapist and patient begin working together, the music therapist will begin to collect information to decide whether or not the therapy is working. As the beginning goals and objectives are met, the patient and the music therapist may determine that the goals need to be altered to meet the patient’s changing needs and abilities.

How much does Music Therapy cost?

Music therapy can take place within a group or an individual setting. Costs for sessions vary depending on geographical area, the music therapist training level, and whether or not the therapist is using a specialized technique. The American Music Therapy Association estimates that group session rates average around $55 an hour, with individual session rates averaging around $60 an hour. These rates are most likely charged by someone who is Bachelor’s level. Master’s level music therapists are likely to charge something closer to $90 and PhD level music therapists over $100 for individual sessions. Group session may be somewhat less.

Who will pay for it?

It may be possible to receive reimbursement for music therapy services through your private health care plan. There have been music therapists throughout the country who have been paid by insurance companies to provide services. Sometimes it depends on whether or not you have a physician referral for music therapy and whether or not that referral is based on what is called “medical necessity.” This term means that the treatment must be reasonable, necessary, and/or appropriate based on current heath are standards and the best available research results. Certainly, music therapy is included as a viable treatment that meets medical necessity, depending on what your presenting problem is. The music therapist may ask you to verify with your insurance company that the services are covered prior to beginning therapy.

There are some states that include music therapy as an approved treatment for children who receive Medicaid waiver services. If you or your family member receives Medicaid waiver services, you can ask your case manager if music therapy is a covered service. It seems that most people who receive music therapy under the Medicaid waiver system are dealing with issues related to developmental delays, autism spectrum disorder, etc. Additionally, these programs are usually available for children and adolescents up through the age of 23; but, there are some states that are beginning to cover music therapy services for adults with developmental delays.

Certainly it is possible to pay for music therapy services out of pocket without relying on a third party to assist in payment. Some music therapists may have a sliding fee scale that is based on the patient’s income.

If you are receiving inpatient hospital care, if the hospital has a music therapist on staff, it is likely included in the hospital room charge. This method of billing is actually cost effective and efficient for hospitals and provides supportive services to all patients.

Is Music Therapy safe?

As with any type of therapy there are some risks, though they are extremely rare. It is possible that some individuals may experience a strong emotional reaction while listening or participating in music therapy interventions. It is common for people to become emotional and cry while listening to music, in fact, it is common. A music therapist is trained to help patients identify and cope with strong feelings. If the music therapist feels that additional help is needed, she may refer you a psychologist or psychiatrist for further evaluation.

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