Music Therapy Interventions (A guide)

Music therapy is a kind of psychotherapy that uses music as a source of healing for individuals experiencing psychological illnesses and other conflicts.

This blog aims to provide you details on music therapy interventions so you can acknowledge the different techniques used in music therapy.

Music therapy is used in a variety of settings including hospitals, clinics, educational institutions, and so forth.

Music therapy deals with listening, communicating, and understanding. 

According to Professor Susan Hanser of Berklee College of Music, music therapy has five major goals. These include: 

  • Helping individuals divert attention from problems to solutions 
  • Helping clients relax and read with the help of rhythmic structure
  • Enabling individuals to visualize positive imagery that makes them feel happy and pleasurable 
  • Aiding individuals in achieving a deep state of relaxation 
  • Helping individuals to change their mood

So you see these are the significant goals performed by music therapy.

Now let’s discover some more facts about music therapy in the next headings and find out what interventions are used in music therapy.

What is Music Therapy?

According to Bruscia (1991), music therapy is ‘an interpersonal process in which the therapist uses music and all of its facets to help patients to improve, restore or maintain health’ (Maratos, Gold, & Crawford, 2008). 

Some years later, Bruscia provided another definition of music therapy in 1998.

According to this definition music therapy is ‘a systematic process of intervention wherein the therapist helps the client to promote health, using musical experiences and the relationships that develop through them as dynamic forces of change’ (Geretsegger, Elefant, Mössler & Gold, 2014).

 A Look at Music Therapy Interventions

There are two major forms of music therapy interventions. These are active interventions and receptive interventions.

All kinds of music therapy interventions use music as a source for treating the problems of individuals.

The music therapy interventions take the help of the power of tunes and sound waves to probe the human mind and help human beings and achieve a state of relaxation and peace.

In music therapy interventions, either the individual creates music, plays music, or listens to music to trigger his positive emotions and activate his positive thinking.

Active music interventions, as the name implies, is the type of music therapy intervention in which both the client and therapist are actively involved in the therapeutic process.

Active music interventions include techniques such as dancing, group singing, individual performances, or musical games. 

On its contrary, receptive music interventions are those in which the clients at as listeners rather than performers.

Examples of receptive music interventions include music relaxation therapies, mindful music meditation, and so forth.

Music Therapy Interventions

As we discussed earlier, there are two forms of music therapy interventions. These are active music intervention and receptive music intervention.

Now let’s figure out what techniques are further used in these two types of music therapy interventions for treating psychological illnesses and other problems.

Active/ Creative/ Expressive Music Interventions

This type of music therapy intervention is very helpful in enabling individuals to express themselves.

It helps boost up self-esteem individuals and help them develop new cognitive skills.

Intervention type also helps individuals develop healthy relationship skills.

The following techniques are used in active/creative/expressive music interventions:

1. Improvisation 

Improvisation is a very effective technique in helping individuals develop cognitive skills.

It makes the individual mentally flexible and teaches him how to be mindful. In this technique, the therapist gifts various tasks to individuals or groups.

Either the therapist plays music himself and gives an exercise to the individuals or groups, or he might give a task for improvising a melody or harmonize using basic chords.

2. Songwriting 

Songwriting is a very effective music therapy intervention that helps individuals deal with their emotions in a positive and healthy way.

In this technique, either the therapist guides the individual or the group to write lyrics for a song, for the therapist works with the client to create the melody and harmony.

3. Drumming 

Drumming is mostly performed in the form of groups. This activity helps individuals to actively participate in the therapy and engage constructively with other group members.

This therapy is very effective for individuals who experience communication issues such as those with autism.

Drumming helps individuals communicate nonverbally with other people.

In this technique, the therapist provides individuals with different drums and ask them to play together without any music.

4. Music performance 

This technique is very helpful in building the self-esteem of individuals.

This intervention can be applied to group settings, with or without the presence of an audience.

Music performance gives a chance to individuals to select the music, prepare it, and then perform it in front of the therapist and/or audience.

This teaches individuals how to make realistic goals, work on them, and finally accomplish the goals.

5. Movement to Music 

This technique can be included in both active and receptive music interventions.

The movement to music is a very effective technique that helps individuals connect their minds with their bodies.

This therapeutic intervention helps them relax and relieve their stress.

Reflective/Receptive Interventions

Receptive music interventions are used to help individuals engage with the music and encourage them to participate in the therapeutic intervention.

The following are the techniques used in receptive music interventions:

1. Receptive listening 

Receptive listening teaches individuals to pay attention to things mindfully.

It helps individuals identify their problems and talked about them to their therapist easily.

Music gives individuals a break to relax and realize that they have to make their lives better.

2. Lyrics Discussion 

Lyrics’ discussion is a very effective way of helping individuals recognize their problems and understand them in the best way.

Music help provoke the inner feelings of the individuals to help the client identify the feelings and to help the therapist work on those feelings. 

Lyrics’ discussion helps in resolving relationship issues.

The therapist can also teach empathy and assertiveness skills to individuals if they oppose the interpretation of lyrics by the other group members.

3. Music and Imagery 

This therapeutic intervention was introduced by Helen L. Bonny, Ph.D.

The therapists who have specialized in this technique inquire their clients about their present situation and play the music according to that.

They ask their clients to tell them whatever they listen, whatever the images come into their minds, their thoughts, memories, feelings etcetera.

The aim of this intervention is to make the individuals physically, emotionally, cognitively, and spiritually healthier.

4. Mood and Music 

Music influences mood positively. Therefore therapists use music to improve the mood and feelings of individuals.

This technique is very helpful in disturbing situations such as cancer treatment centers.

Who can benefit from Music Therapy?

Music therapy is a very effective form of psychotherapy that is used to treat both psychological and physical illnesses.

Often times music therapy has found to be very effective in treating problems that could not be cured by other forms of psychotherapy.

Music help individual express themselves non-verbally. Music helps induce positive emotions and stimulate reward centers in the brain.

Music therapy is very effective in treating problems such as depression, mood-related concerns, anxiety, schizophrenia, substance dependency, autism, personality issues, insomnia, and dementia. 

In addition to this, music therapy is found to be very effective in enhancing cognitive, social, emotional, and motor functioning.

It helps in curing intellectual or physical difficulties, brain injury, or Alzheimer’s, cancer, and hypertension. 

The effects of music therapy interventions are long-lasting and this therapy can be applied in a number of settings.

Music is found to be very effective in relieving stress and pain perception in mothers during labor, boost up self-esteem, self-concept, verbal communication, prosocial behavior, social skills, group engagement, and coping skills.

Limitations of Music Therapy 

Although music therapy was a great success and it has various proven benefits, music therapy has some downfalls as well.

Music therapy cannot be used as a single treatment for chronic physical and psychological illnesses.

In addition to music therapy, medication, physical therapy, or psychotherapy are also essential for completely treating physical and psychological problems. 

Furthermore, any kind of music can be used in music therapy interventions but the preferences of music vary from individual to individual.

Therefore, to make the intervention successful, the therapist has to consider the preference of climb before choosing and applying music therapy interventions on them.

The following are some best books on music therapy interventions.

These books are a very helpful source of increasing knowledge about music therapy and the interventions used in music therapy for helping individuals deal with their psychological disturbances and other problems.

These books can be used by professionals as well as by normal people as a guide to resolving their conflicts with the help of music therapy interventions.

Just click the book you wish to study and you will be redirected to the page from where you can access it.

This blog provided you details on music therapy interventions.

The blog mention various techniques used in music therapy to help individuals deal with their psychological disturbances and other conflicts.

The uses and limitations of music therapy interventions are also discussed above.

If you have any queries or questions regarding this blog, let us know through your comments. We will be glad to assist you in this regard.


15 Music Therapy Activities and Tools by Madhuleena Roy Chowdhury (2020)

What is Music Therapy and How Does It Work? by Heather Craig (2020)

Music Therapy – GoodTherapy

Music Therapy Techniques, Exercises, And Outcomes | Regain