Therapy through music

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In 2016, Maryville’s music therapy program made the top 25 master’s degrees list for music therapy.

According to the American Music Therapy Association, music therapy is defined as, “an established health profession in which music is used within a therapeutic relationship to address physical, emotional, cognitive and social needs of individuals. After assessing the strengths and needs of each client, the qualified music therapist provides the indicated treatment including creating, singing, moving to and/or listening to music.”

Music therapy recital 2017. Photo courtesy of Jonathan Heintz.

Music therapists are first and foremost musicians. They do not walk around with CD players and headphones in their hand all of the time. It is about the relationship between the therapist and the client. Music is the tool used in order to address the therapeutic goal.

Maryville’s music therapy program is a music degree that is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM.) NASM is an organization of schools, conservatories, colleges and universities with approximately 651 accredited institutional members.

Dr. Cynthia Briggs is a professor and director of the music therapy program here at Maryville. Music therapy is a combination of two schools at Maryville. One side is health and psychology; the other is music history and theory.

“The field of music neuroscience has exploded because music is really different in the brain,” explained Dr. Briggs. “How we process and make music and remember music and recall music and organize music is so much unique compared to language or movement. And the more we’ve kind of researched it the more powerful music has become in terms of what it can do.”

When asked what is important everyone knows about music therapy, Dr. Briggs stated that it is not only for children or older adults. It is for everyone.

2017 Music Therapy Graduates. Photo courtesy of Jim Wolfe.

Betsy Alfermann, a 2017 music therapy graduate, grew up wanting to become a nurse. At the age of nine, she started playing the piano and developed a love for the arts. She did not realize how these two aspects of her life could become a career path.

“When I learned about music therapy, it was the perfect combination of what I wanted. It was a healthcare profession with a creative aspect that included my passion for music,” said Alfermann.

Currently interning at BJC home health care, Alfermann addresses cognitive, sensory, spiritual, emotional-affective, physiological and socio-cultural pain after many visits. Her work does not stop there. She also goes to patient’s homes, nursing homes and the BJC hospice house.

Regarding music therapy stereotypes Betsy Alfermann said they don’t “just go in and play music. That does not encompass what we do at all.  We create a very individualized path for clients with goals and interventions specifically created for them with their preferences and needs in mind.”

After talking to many music therapists you will learn that the reason they chose this profession is that music reaches people on a different level of interaction.

If you think music therapy could be the right path for you, learn more here.

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