Music Moves

Perspectives & Insights from a Local Music Therapist

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Some spirited conversation stemmed this month [Archive Note: March 2011] from the GF Herald’s Article on Music Therapy and my subsequent letter to the editor. I’ve been intrigued to see homeschooling and other alternative takes on education enter into a few discussions, as I was homeschooled through the 4th grade and believe it can be done well with the right parents (mine are both educators who used a well regulated curriculum) and the right balance of social interaction (I took music and physical education with peers at a local private school before integrating completely in the 5th grade).  So, I find it especially well timed for me to offer, as once promised, some definitions and clarifications of terms common to Music Therapy and many other helping professionals, some of which were used in the article, and all of which I believe are important to know:

“People first Language”

This one is of the utmost importance to myself and many other professionals who work with individuals who have disabilities.  It is always preferred that a person with a disability be referred to as just that, “a person with a disability,” rather than being labeled as “disabled.”  So for instance, in my letter to the editor, I took issue with the term “Autistic” being used to describe my cousin in the article on me, preferring that he be referred to as my “Cousin with Autism.”


Contrary to the images that might now be cropping into your head of the popular A&E television series of the same name, a Music Therapy Intervention is a Session Activity targeted to address a specific goal or “Intervene” on a particular behavior or other disabling factor.  An intervention that was named in the Herald’s article was a “Sing-a-long,” which I clarified in my letter to the editor to ensure that the Intervention of a Sing-a-long was not confused with a Sing-a-long Session, like those my family and I used to lead in Nursing Homes when I was a child.  Sing-a-long Sessions are entire periods of time occupied by members of a group literally singing along with a leader.  There may or may not be any goals at work there.  A Sing-a-Long Intervention created by a Credentialed Music Therapist will use the elements of singing (breath, remembering lyrics, etc.) in a targeted fashion to address specific needs, like improving breath support and cognitive sharpness.  At the 12 Houses Drum Circle  that meets once a month(keep following the MT in ND page for details on that and other such community events in North Dakota – or Google one near you!) attendees see me leading stress-busting and energizing interventions to focus their minds and get their bodies involved in the physical activity of drumming.  Therefore, the services a Board-Certified Music Therapist provides can be more than just emotionally supporting, they can be developmentally and medically necessary to assist an individual’s functioning!

“IDEIA” and “Reimbursement”

A lot of people ask me about funding when I talk about Music Therapy.  Who pays for it?  Right now in North Dakota (to my knowledge) everything is privately funded.  Schools, Agencies, and Families all pay for MT out of their own budgets.  But it doesn’t have to be that way.  Music Therapy has been listed as a Related Service under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (or IDEIA) since 1997, but it’s role was most recently clarified in June of 2010.  Credentialed Music Therapists can determine through Assessments if MT is “necessary” to assist an individual’s function, just like Physical Therapist, Occupational Therapists, and Speech Language Pathologists do nationwide thousands of times every year.  This is the case with Medicare as well, though Medicaid and Private Insurance Companies all have their own policies regarding the coverage of Music Therapy.  Most will agree however that if Music Therapy (or any other Nationally Recognized and Regulated Health Discipline) is found to be medically or educationally “necessary” for an individual with a disability, that coverage is justifiable, though it is especially important for me to note here that while these are the National Standards for coverage of Music Therapy, that is not what HB 1352 (The Music Therapy Bill ultimately merged with SB 2271) is about.  At the time of this post, all HB1352 stood to do was create a registry, or database, of Music Therapists who are already Credentialed and working in North Dakota. [Archive Note: after merging with SB 2271, the bill took on the additional role of establishing a Licensing Board for the field].  This is important for similar reasons to why MT is financially coverable (the establishment and protection of services for both MT-BC’s as professionals and the clients we serve) but HB1352, and ultimately SB 2271 were not bills created to mandate coverage of services by any agency at the time of their creation.


Those are the big three terms that I find myself asked about most… feel free to ask about any other terms you hear floating around about Music Therapy!  I am always happy to clarify.

Next post:  Music Therapy – Is there an App for that? (Some say “Yes!”)


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