Music Therapist – Jess Higgins Anderson

What does a music therapist do?

A music therapist uses music as a tool to achieve therapeutic outcomes. Music therapists work toward communication, sensory, physical, emotional and social therapy goals. In music therapy we might use instruments to work on physical goals (e.g. hand function, developing strength and endurance in arms, etc.); use music to help with reducing stress and anxiety; using singing to increase communication skills; develop play and relational skills; and provide opportunities for problem solving and higher order executive functioning. 

How does music therapy differ from music education or learning to play an instrument? 

Music therapy is different from music education or entertainment as the focus is on your individual therapy goals. In the same way that in speech pathology sessions you might learn the alphabet, the purpose isn’t only literacy skills, in music therapy we might learn music skills and have lots of fun but the overall purpose is always related back to your goals. 

Who can benefit from music therapy? 

Anyone! Music therapy doesn’t require any musical ability or particular musical preferences. Music therapy can benefit anyone who enjoys listening, creating or participating in music activities. Music therapy works really well as part of a multidisciplinary team as music can access so many different parts of our brains and bodies, and therefore can make working on other goals so much more enjoyable and meaningful. 

What do you enjoy most about being a music therapist? 

I love the moments of shared joy when a child makes a break through with their goals: when a child sings/vocalises for the first time in a session, or when a child realises that they’re creating the sounds on the instruments themselves. I also love watching people connect to the music that they love, lighting up and engaging whole heartedly with me through the music.