When I tell people that I am a music therapist, I am usually asked if I work with children in schools or older adults in nursing homes. Rarely do people assume that I provide music therapy services for adolescents. An article published in Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy aimed to research and report how music therapists from around the world are clinically trained to work with adolescents as well as how they are currently working with this population. The researching music therapists at the helm of this report sought out to answer these questions and review the current literature available for music therapy and adolescents.
The music therapy literature suggests that adolescence is a time of identity formation and self exploration. Music therapists from across the globe report learning about adolescence in relation to topics such as physical, emotional, cognitive, and social development while in their academic training. Others reported learning about music therapy and adolescents when discussing topics such as mental illness and “at risk youth.”
The research on the topics of adolescents and music therapy shows that interventions such as group improvisation, songwriting, lyric analysis, and playlist construction are effective tools used when working with this population. The participants of this report share that receptive methods such as music listening are also commonly used when working with this population.
Answers given by the participants note that the most common places to work with adolescents are behavioral health settings, medical hospitals, and special education classrooms in school. Other less identified settings include the home, day centers, foster care situations, and hospice. This is a rather important piece of information gathered, as it can be easy to forget that music therapists work in so many other settings than just hospitals and schools.
All music therapists should be aware due to their training and their clinical experiences that music therapy work with adolescents is on the rise. Music therapy is an effective medium for teenagers, and the benefits of these interventions are shown in both research and in the practices of music therapists all over the world.
By Josie McCutcheon, MT-BC
McFerran, K., Fedrigo, G., & Wölfl, A. (2021). Report on the current state of practice and training of music therapists working With adolescents. Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy, 21(2). https://doi.org/10.15845/voices.v21i2.3195