In my freshman year of college, I had a roommate who was studying music therapy. Much of our relationship was creepy — she and her friends would pat me on the head, or she’d talk about her “frail” students and “making” them play music, or how happy she was to see them with smiles that “she didn’t put there.” In short, unfortunate word choices and a wee bit of a miracle worker complex. She flunked out her second semester, and on behalf of her future clients I have to say I was grateful.
However, music as a way of distracting from or improving upon or enriching a disability or source of pain has always been interesting to me. I always wondered about the rigors of the music therapy program — music therapy majors were required to possess the same skill, talent, and discipline as the performance majors or the education majors. I couldn’t think how the intricacies of modes, and major and minor keys, and arpeggios and intervals, would translate to a half hour session with a child and a toy drum.
So, I decided to look up some case studies online. (Most books, with the exception of the dated works of Juliette Alvin, are considered textbooks and prohibitively expensive.) I found a couple of very enlightening articles, which detailed both the necessity for musical theory and the importance of having respect for the clients as people, not projects. The links are as follows:
Also, the website for VOICES — one of the most prominent music therapy journals — is quite informative, especially the discussion boards.