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  Therapeutic Music Applications vs. Performance

The use of music in therapeutic settings has been around for centuries, but is a field that has but recently been scientifically studied and acknowleged as a viable modality in the west. Many are unfamiliar with it’s practical applications and often confuse clinical musicians’ services with entertainment. With that in mind, I felt it would be helpful to outline the differences between the services provided by a Music Practitioner and a performance.

A performance is offered with entertainment as the goal and is generally played for larger groups. While it may have therapeutic value, it is not intended for that purpose and can not connect with individuals as can be achieved in a smaller intentionally therapeutic setting. In healthcare facilities, certain individuals are often grouped in with the whole, who don’t wish to participate, but are unable to leave. As with other healthcare professionals, we are trained to do no harm, which includes playing for patients without their permission or willingness to hear. Additionally, patients who are unable to leave their beds and might benefit most, are omitted. Essentially, a performance setting changes the dynamic between the deliverer and the recipient and diffuses the therapeutic effect.

The purpose of the Music Practitioner is to create a healing atmosphere that will better allow recipients to access their own healing mechanisms, a service which is best achieved on a one-to-one basis or in small groups of 2 to 4, in an intimate setting. The patient’s permission is always obtained beforehand (excepting comatose patients, where we ask the guardian or healthcare provider and still introduce ourselves to the recipient). If it is preferable for the practitioner to remain outside of the patient’s room, there is still benefit to be had by playing out in the hallway or by the nurses’ station. While the ability to obtain eye contact, or at least observe the patient, is much more beneficial, and greatly assists the practitioner in choosing appropriate pieces, it doesn’t change the intention or focus, so a therapeutic effect is still to be had.

Donna Adams-Profeta, CMP

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