What is Music Therapy?

The Australian Music Therapy Association uses the following definition:

Music Therapy is a research-based practice and profession in which music is used to actively support people as they strive to improve their health, functioning and wellbeing.  Music therapy is the intentional use of music by a university trained professional who is registered with the Australian Music Therapy Association Inc.

Music Therapy is different from music education and entertainment as it focuses on health, functioning and wellbeing.

In summary:

  • Music Therapy is an allied health profession
  • Music Therapy is based on research
  • Music Therapy uses specifically designed music interventions to meet individualised goals that may be physical, cognitive, social, emotional and/or language.

How does it work?

Music is motivating

Music is multi-sensory

Music can carry and chunk information thus increasing memory and recall of information

Music uses the whole brain thus allowing for creation of new pathways through the brain and strengthening of existing pathways through repetition.

Music can be non-verbal

What happens in a Music Therapy session?

Music therapy groups address a range of individualised goals and therefore vary depending on the students in the group.  However some of the strategies frequently used include:

  • Song singing including well known songs and songs specifically written for students.
  • Instrument playing
  • Improvisation using instruments, voice or movement
  • Movement to music
  • Song writing
  • Song discussion and lyric analysis
  • Songs written to address specific goals such as;

– How to sit at a table to write

– What having good personal space means

– What being angry looks and feels like

– How to calm down when feeling sad or angry

– How to make friends or introduce yourself to someone new

Music and Movement

Combined Occupational Therapy and Music Therapy sessions are run to address specific needs. Rhythm in music stimulates the parts of the brain responsible for movement and is therefore able to assist in motor planning and movement skills. As we are rhythmical beings, our breathing, heart rate and movements are rhythmical.  Rhythm is used in these sessions to assist the students in reaching an optimal state of regulation for learning through the use of entrainment.  Entrainment is a process by which the body’s natural rhythm is matched using music and then slowly increased or decreased to allow students to regulate and engage with learning.

These sessions address a range of skills such as:

  • Postural stability
  • Upper limb stability
  • Range of movement
  • Crossing midline
  • Trunk rotation
  • Hand-eye coordination
  • Hand grasps and movements specific to hand writing
  • Diaphragmatic breathing to assist with voice control and regulation
  • Rhythmicity – teaching students to move and/or play in time to help with regulation.
  • Attention
  • Engagement

Alphabet to music

Specific songs for each letter of the alphabet are used to teach correct letter formation.  Each song melodically follows the movement of the letter (e.g. when making a downward stroke, the melody of the song also goes down) thus giving non-verbal cues on how to form the letters as well as providing explicit descriptions using simple language.

Alphabet to music groups are run by the music therapist and occupational therapist to allow for repetition and immediate support and feedback.

Auditory Processing Training

Students with language impairments often also have issues with auditory processing.  Combined Speech-Language Pathology and Music Therapy sessions aim to address these issues in a developmentally appropriate way.

Pitched and non pitched percussion instruments are used to train auditory perception focusing on sound awareness, location, volume, duration, pitch and sequencing of sounds. The skills learned in these sessions provide a basis for further development of language and literacy skills.

Social-emotional development

Specifically written songs using simple language are used to explicitly teach information about social and emotional skills.  Music interventions are also used to give students opportunity to learn and practice these skills in a safe and structured environment with immediate feedback and positive reinforcement. As music is non-verbal it can provide students the opportunity to learn and practice skills without the need for language.


We also have a school choir, which gives students the chance to sing together, perform, and gain confidence in using their voices.