Music Therapy - A Beginner’s Guide
An Interview with Maya Bakshi-Yair, Music Therapist
Maya Bakshi-Yair has been a music therapist for 10 years, has an M.A in Music Therapy from the University of Bar Ilan and has been part of the Therapeutic staff at Bet Elazraki for the past 9 years. During her years of work she has treated through music psychiatric groups, mentally retarded, youth and adults with behavioral problems and more, appointed by the Ministry of Education. In addition, she treats children with behavioral problems and guides their parents.
Let’s start from the top – what is music therapy?
Music therapy is in fact an emotional treatment by means of music and musical instruments, which provide an alternative channel of expression to the feelings and emotions of the patients, who often, as a result of the nature of their life, find it hard to express themselves in words.
Who is this method intended for?
There is no person that does not connect to music, and therefore it is intended for anyone and everyone, of all ages. Everyone can find that place where they connect to music – and there are many ways to do so: One can play a musical instrument, listen to music, write poems, sing, write lyrics and so on.
Each person finds the path where he/she feels most comfortable, a path that causes them to connect to the different feelings they’re experiencing – sadness, joy, sympathy, angriness, despair, hope and more. Children, because of their young age, are more open to music as it allows them to express themselves through sounds instead of through words. Sometimes their vocabulary isn’t wide enough for them to express themselves freely and with confidence.
What role does music therapy play in Bet Elazraki Children’s Home?
The Music Therapy Program, despite being a relatively new method of treatment (developed in the early 80’s), has been implemented in Bet Elazraki for the past 9 years. Yehuda Kohn, the Children’s Home Director, has succeeded in recognizing the great potential of this method of treatment, embracing it to our home and supplying all the necessary means needed for treating through music, despite the difficulties that are encountered at times.
Throughout these years many children have been and are at present being treated, children who have not always found the right place and environment to share with others their innermost feelings and their painful pasts. With the help of music we are given the ability to provide our children a means of expressing themselves in a creative and unique way, which has proven itself time and time again.
Is there a need for musical knowledge in order to be a music therapy patient? Are there any “rules”?
There is no need for any musical knowledge. Music therapy is not music class, and therefore you do not need to know how to play or to read notes. On the contrary, very often in music therapy we find that the patient is being acquainted with musical instruments for the first time. The music playing is based on improvisation and there are no rules. Therefore there is no wrong and right, pretty or ugly, no ending or beginning. Any object in the room can turn into a musical instrument, and as long as nothing gets broken, everything is legit.
What are the advantages of music therapy in comparison to other therapy methods?
Music enables the patient to connect to his/her healthy part – the creative part.
It enables a dimension of expression and a dimension of creation. Even if the patient finds it hard to express him/herself, in music it will always come out good, because it has to do with creativity and sounds: there is no one that can’t do it, and that’s why it is fun; it grants the desired feeling of accomplishment. And where there is creativity and creating – there is progress.
The advantage of music therapy is that it works on two fields simultaneously:
Music in therapy, and music as therapy.
Music in therapy is a state where something musical happens and is then discussed with the patient. Meaning, whether the patient chose to play, sing, listen or write – afterwards he/she will discuss the feelings and emotions experienced at the time, with the therapist. The music itself serves as a stimulator for a verbal conversation about the patient’s state.
In music as therapy, the music itself holds the healing power. And that means that as the patient is creating music through the different ways available, he/she undergo a healing process which allows them to relax and connect to themselves and their inner feelings.
Moreover, the children that come to therapy usually arrive with no feelings of stability, no base.
The music offers them tools through which they can strengthen these feelings, with the use of repetitive musical boxes, rhythms and breathing. What the child chooses to do with the sounds – is in fact the reflection of his/her inner world. For example, a child with low self esteem might show up to therapy hunched, quiet and scared. If we work with him on powerful, intense playing, loud singing and displaying a presence – there will definitely be an outcome of this outside the therapy room.
Another example – it is very common for children to arrive to therapy with fear of abandonment. Here is a good place to work with them on a “goodbye song” which they can sing together with the therapist at the end of every session, and by doing so, to help them cope with a life full of separations, or even with a regular life, which also has its share of goodbyes from people and places from time to time, while understanding that this is a natural process and a cyclic part of life.
Is music therapy limited to a time frame?
As in any therapy, time is the major key for building trust between the patient and the therapist. That is why the treatments are long termed, and their length is a few years. These children have suffered at least one forced separation throughout their lives and therefore find it very hard to trust anyone. In most cases a child that starts a therapy process does not even believe that the therapist will actually be there the following week. Building a trusting relationship takes a long time but without it the therapeutic process cannot advance. There is no time frame for treatment – this is the place for the patients to feel stability, not temporariness.
What is the ultimate goal of music therapy?
The ultimate goal is to enable every patient to feel good with him/herselves and their surroundings. When the child is emotionally blocked, his/her life is on hold. The music serves as a tool for releasing mental blocks. Our children, who are so burdened with emotions due to the extreme situations forced upon them, are troubled by them in almost every aspect of their lives. Through a connection to their healthy and creative side, they can recognize the healthiness and positivity within themselves, and focus on those.
In our Children’s Home, with long term and steady treatment, our children receive tools to cope with the reality of their lives, and receive an opportunity to develop the positive sides of their personalities. By doing so we are granting our children of Bet Elazraki the best gift of all – the very cause for which Bet Elazraki was founded – a real chance, for a better future.
To learn more about Music Therapy our professional staff recommends this site: