• Laura Fonseca, MT-BC

Music Therapy or Adapted Lessons: What’s Right For Me?

Prospective clients often ask, “What’s the difference between music therapy and adapted music lessons?” While there are ways in which they intersect, there are also some key differences between them. This blog will outline the key differences so you can decide what option is best for you or your loved one.

Music Therapy


Music therapy is the clinical and evidence-based use of music and music activities to support non-music goals within a therapeutic relationship. Music therapy takes elements of music such as melody, rhythm, and harmony to intentionally support non-music areas. For example, a music therapy session may have experiences and interventions that specifically target a cognitive skill such as attention. A session that is promoting attention may incorporate specific rhythmic experiences that have shown to improve attention.

Adapted Music Lessons


An adapted music lesson is the implementation of clinical and evidence-based knowledge to promote instrument learning for individuals needing different support than traditional lessons can offer. Adapted lessons offer a space to learn instruments with a professional who understands how to support an individual with diverse needs in learning an instrument. Learning the instrument may support the individual in improving attention, but the experience is not created to intentionally target attention.

Key Differences


In the music therapy setting, we are intentionally using music to target skills like attention, executive function, motor skills, coping skills, communication and more.


In adapted music lessons, these skills may be tapped into – but they are not the primary focus. The primary focus is for a musical outcome such as learning scales, chords, or instrument techniques.


Music therapy knowledge such as “rhythm promotes attention” may be applied in the adapted music space, however it is not to target attention, it is to promote holistic music learning. If we were supporting attention in the music therapy space, we would target that skill through an intervention designed to improve the distinct types of attention.


We would also ensure that the skill being learned in the music therapy space is accessible to the client outside the music therapy session and without the support of music.


The key differences include the intentionality behind how and why elements of music are used, how progress is measured and how we support carryover of non-music skills.

Overlap


There is an overlap between these two types of service. For example, a music therapist may observe that a client needs support in initiating instrument play. They may take the opportunity to include music experiences to promote initiation of instrument play using music therapy interventions or knowledge. The unique knowledge that music therapists have allows us to enter the music lesson space through a different lens. Hybrid sessions often include a unique blend of music therapy intervention with instrument learning.



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