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3 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Starting Music Therapy or Lessons

Posted Oct 04 2011 10:00am

The cat is out of the bag: I teach lessons in addition to my work as a music therapist.

Currently, I teach piano and guitar to a variety of students who amaze me each and every week, but I also hope to add voice to the mix when the interest arises (especially since it is my primary instrument)! What I really enjoy about this mix is that I teach ‘typical’ children in addition to those who have different needs. It keeps me on my toes, not just as a musician, but as a therapist as well. Based on who I’m working with, I have to come up with a variety of ways to teach concepts to a variety of learners!

But how do you know if your child would benefit best from lessons or music therapy? This topic has been addressed by several of my colleagues, but I thought I’d give it my own spin today.

There are a few questions you should ask yourself before trying to answer this question:

1.  What are your goals in seeking music for your child?

This is the biggie. Do you want your child to learn a musical instrument for the sake of learning a musical instrument, or do you see music as a way your child can develop skills in other areas? Music therapy focuses on utilizing music to develop non-musical skills. The goal is not proficiency on an instrument, but rather the skills utilized in developing it (think: motor, social, emotional, communication). In music lessons, the goal is proficiency on the instrument. While those non-musical goals may still be addressed in some manner, they are not the focus.

2.  What are your child’s goals in seeking music?

Did your child approach you with this request? Do you think it is something they may stick with? Do they have an attention span that is able to focus on learning an instrument (this in and of itself is NOT a barrier)?

3.  Are there difficulties that your child faces that could be addressed through music therapy?

It is my belief that music therapy and music lessons do not have to be mutually exclusive. I’ve worked with several children (and adults) on developing their musical skills as a way to reach non-musical goals. Communication, self-esteem, identity, and emotional skills are all obvious benefits to learning a musical instrument in a therapeutic environment. While the entire time may not be devoted exclusively to learning a musical instrument, this skill development can be a big part of progressing towards a goal.

Be sure to have an open dialogue with your potential therapist or teacher regarding making this choice. They can help to inform you of what your child may benefit the best from.

What factors went into your decision of music therapy vs. music lessons? Did you do both, or a combination? Leave the comments below!

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