Why is the Music Therapy Scope of Practice So Broad?
One of the concerns with music therapy often expressed by related professionals (such as the American Speech-Language Hearing Association, or ASHA), is that music therapy is so broad in scope. Honestly, I have to agree.
I’ve never been able to comfortably argue the point that music therapy is confusing because it is so broad. And honestly, I’m a little nervous to address this complex issue because I don’t have a clear answer, but stick with me here and see that if this might be a way to clarify a complex issue.
Yes, the field of music therapy is very broad.
Music Therapists are trained to address a hugely diverse range of needs from motor coordination to emotional healing to language development.
One could spend years learning about each of these areas individually, and in fact, people do. They’re called Physical Therapists, Psychologists, Mental Health Counselors, Speech Therapists, Occupational Therapists, and so on. Each spends years focusing on one complex domain and getting really good at that one area of expertise.
So what makes music therapists think they have the right to address the same goals as a Psychologist with only a fraction of the schooling? Especially when music therapy training is 4.5 years of broad and general education out of necessity in order to squeeze in all of the other areas that are also listed within our scope of practice?
Because we do not do what a Psychologist does.
We do not claim to make a complete psychological profile of our patients.
We do not assess complex language needs like Speech Language Pathologists.
We are keenly aware that we do not understand the human body like a Physical Therapist.
Nor do we have a complex working knowledge of human relationships and emotional processes like Mental Health Counselors.
Instead, we treat the needs of our patients by doing something entirely different, and we use something entirely different to get there: MUSIC.
We do understand how music touches emotion. We understand how music accesses language. We are trained in how to use music stimulate movement. And we understand how music can help patients improve relationships.
Our scope of practice rests within music.
Using music in therapy accesses all parts of our psyche, and is therefore naturally wide in scope simply because it can do so much.
So while a Music Therapist is not qualified to complete a psychological assessment, we are uniquely qualified to use music to help patients overcome emotional blocks, strengthen relationships, and make meaningful insights.
While a Music Therapist is not qualified to administer speech and language evaluations or diagnose speech or language disorders, we are uniquely qualified to use music to help patients form words, improve receptive communication, and improve expressive language.
And while a Music Therapist is not qualified to diagnose physical limitations and prescribe physical therapy exercises, we are uniquely qualified to use music to improve steady walking, increase muscle strength, and improve motor coordination.
So while music therapy is admittedly a very broad field, our scope and strength will always center around music.
We understand our limitations in each respective field and we do not claim otherwise, we are simply keenly aware and administrators of the therapeutic power of music.
We are thoroughly trained in how to utilize music to bring about real results, all within our own unique, and admittedly broad, scope of practice.
So perhaps instead of describing our scope of practice as broad, we can explain it as touching the whole human experience.
Because that’s what music does.
Music Therapy is a powerful and broadly influential therapy indeed.