It’s a way of getting there. I spend a lot of time explaining what I do. I was talking recently with a parent advocate and comparing the difference between a performance based group and a music therapy group. In a performing ensemble, music itself is the goal. A student may learn better breath control in order to have better tone as a singer or a wind instrument player. Rhythm exercises are practiced so that performance will be crisper and more vibrant. A musician may even learn to move in a certain way so that they have freer technique and better control.
A music therapy session may look similar. The same musical exercises may even be practiced. However, the endpoint in mind might be relieving symptoms of asthma or improved impulse control or better range of motion. Music in these instances can be a carrier of information, in other words, telling a client how to do something. Or it can provide motivation and structure. It is easier for a child to wait to play their instrument when they can hear how it fits into the song. Or the lyrics of the song may provide a way to process difficult emotions.
Often a student may derive some non-musical benefits from attending a traditional music class. However, deliberate planning and goal setting is required for a client to achieve maximum therapeutic benefit. That is what a music therapist is trained to do.