Teen Music Therapy is one of the many wonderful Expressive Arts Therapy programs we offer at Paradigm Malibu. Music Therapy is the clinical and evidence-based use of music as an intervention to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship and setting. Music Therapy has been shown to be an effective form of treatment for physical, emotional, social, and cognitive needs and struggles of adolescents, as related to both Mental Health and Substance Abuse Disorder Treatment. We find that, as music is already such an important and prominent part of so many adolescents’ lives, engaging in music as part of treatment is not only an effective approach but enjoyable for the teens as well. Please note that all Music Therapy sessions at Paradigm Malibu are conducted by a professional credentialed Music Therapist.
As is common in other forms of Expressive Arts Therapies, teen Music Therapy sessions vary according to the particular teen(s) present, and how the Music Therapist assesses the specific needs and challenges that are present. Music Therapy sessions may involve any combination of creating, listening to, dancing to, or singing music; however, it’s important to note that these acts, in and of themselves, do not constitute Music Therapy. At Paradigm, the Music Therapist assists in the assessment of our teens’ emotional well-being, physical health, social functioning, communication abilities, and cognitive skills, through musical responses. The music therapist then designs music sessions for individuals and groups based on these needs, and including using things such as music improvisation, receptive music listening, song writing, lyric discussion, music and imagery, music performance, and learning through music. Therefore, it is not simply the listening or singing of music that makes it Music Therapy; rather, it’s the implementation, engagement, and connections that the Music Therapist helps teens to make that places such musical acts in a therapeutic context. Along these lines, although the powerful effects that music can have on all people are profound indeed, Music Therapy is not just the experience of these effects, but rather the implementation and harnessing thereof. In other words, Music Therapy is not using these effects as just an experience, but also as a tool toward the aim of a greater goal.
In our teen Music Therapy sessions at Paradigm Malibu, teens have the opportunity to revisit, engage, and probe deeper into the thoughts and emotions related to all other aspects of their treatment, within the creative context of music. Many times, we find that adolescents are afraid of, or sometimes resistant to, different aspects of their treatment process. This is only natural and often has no relation to the teens’ sincere interest or willingness to engage in their treatment, but rather, it’s simply the fact that for many, adolescents or not, treatment can be a scary and overwhelming time. With that being said, often Music Therapy sessions can help adolescents engage in and express thoughts and feelings they’re experiencing which they have trouble expressing in words, such as during Talk Therapy sessions. This is one of the great values of the Expressive Arts Therapies approach, in its ability to help adolescents gain access to aspects of their experience that might otherwise go untouched.
At Paradigm, we strongly encourage adolescents to take part in Teen Music Therapy sessions for this very reason. It’s important to note that, similar to other forms of Expressive Arts Therapies, Music Therapy is not based on an adolescent being forced to perform music, nor is it based on a teen’s ability to play music. In fact, it is not about the music itself, but rather, the experience of the teen which the music brings about, which the Music Therapist helps to recognize and facilitate. Used in combination with Talk Therapy and Behavioral Therapy sessions, Music Therapy can be very useful in helping teens with a number of different therapeutic steps, including but not limited to: noticing thought patterns, belief systems, and habits; recognizing emotions they were unaware of; making connections between behaviors and thoughts or feelings; recognizing feelings and thoughts related to their interaction with others; and improving confidence and self-worth.
Some specific examples of Music Therapy treatment, as recognized by the American Music Therapy Association, include: