Music therapists master instruments of healing for diverse clients

Akron Children's Hospital music therapist Sarah Tobias plays music with dialysis patient Chris Blackwell, 19, in May 2013 in Akron, Ohio. (MCT/Akron Beacon Journal/Phil Masturzo)

When people ask Dr. Tracy Richardson about taking the music therapy elective at St. Mary-of-the-Woods College, she responds with a question: "Which one of the 15 to 20 classes would you like to take?"

Music therapy, a growing treatment option for a wide variety of clients with disabilities or ailments, comes with a fair share of challenges, said Richardson, department chair of music therapy at St. Mary-of-the-Woods in West Terre Haute, Ind. For Richardson, who has been teaching for more than 20 years at her alma mater, music therapy is more than just singing songs with people to make them feel better. Music therapy is difficult, because of the many things a therapist is doing at once.

"As a musician who is performing, I can just focus on just playing the music well, and maybe a little bit of interaction with the audience," Richardson told NCR. "If I'm just a counselor … I'm not using music. I'm just using talk therapy; there's a lot to attend to there as well, but it's all within the verbal interaction. In music therapy, it's all of that in there at once."

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