Types of Music Therapy

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In general, musical therapy utilizes the power of music to interact with human emotions and affect wellbeing, although there are several different types recognized in the world today. There are various different psychological theories for musical therapy, which define the different types as we know them.

An introduction to music therapy

Bonny method of guided imagery and music

Helen Lindquist Bonny was a music therapist who developed an approach to music therapy that involves guided imagery with music.

Mental imagery is used to aid patients with the physiological and psychological issues they may be experiencing. The patient is asked to focus on an image, using this as a starting point to think and discuss any related problems. Bonny added music to this technique, helping patients to heal and find solutions with increased awareness.

In this application, music is thought to be a co-therapist, due to the significant role it plays in the therapy. The music choice is an important consideration for the therapist to make, with the individual patient and the goals for the session influencing the selection.

Dalcroze eurhythmics

Also known as the Dalcroze Method, this is a method used to teach music to students and can be used as a form of therapy.

Dalcroze eurhythmics was developed by Émile Jaques-Dalcroze and focuses on rhythm, structure, and movement expression in the learning process. This type of musical therapy is thought to greatly improve physical awareness, which helps patients with motor difficulties significantly.


Zoltán Kodály is considered to be the inspiration for the development of this philosophy of music therapy. To this end, Kodaly uses a base of rhythm, notation, sequence, and movement to aid in the learning and healing of the patient.

It has been observed that this method helps to improve intonation, rhythm, and music literacy, as well as provide a positive impact on perceptual function, concept formation, motor skills, and learning performance in a therapeutic setting.

Neurologic music therapy (NMT)

NMT is a model of music therapy that is based on neuroscience, specifically the perception and production of music and its influence on the function of the brain and behaviors.

It uses the difference between the brain with and without music and manipulates this to instigate changes in the brain to affect the patient, even outside the realm of music.

Specialists of this type of musical therapy claim that the brain changes and develops as a direct consequence of engaging with music. This can be beneficial to train motor responses, like tapping a foot to the music, and to develop related motor skills.


Paul Nordoff and Clive Robbins partnered together for nearly two decades to investigate the place of music in therapy, with a particular interest for disabled children.

Nordoff and Robbins piloted projects with children affected by autism, mental disorders, emotional disturbances, developmental delays, and other learning difficulties, using music as the means of therapy. Their work was recognized by relevant health bodies, particularly for a 5-year study entitled “Music Therapy Project for Psychotic Children Under Sever at the Day Care Unit.” They also published several books, explaining the theory and providing information on how music can be used for children’s therapy.

The core aspect of the Nordoff-Robbins approach assumes everyone can find meaning and benefit from music and focuses on music creation with the help of a therapist. This technique is widely practiced throughout the world today and can accommodate patients of all experience and ability levels.


The Orff-Schulwerk approach to music therapy was developed by Gertrude Orff to help children with developmental delays and disabilities, following the realization that medicine alone was not sufficient.

This places an emphasis on education (“schulwerk” translates from German to “schoolwork”) and uses music to improve the learning ability of children. It also places significance on humanistic psychology and employs music as a means to improve the interaction between the patient and other people.


Further Reading

Last Updated: Mar 31, 2021

Yolanda Smith

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Yolanda Smith

Yolanda graduated with a Bachelor of Pharmacy at the University of South Australia and has experience working in both Australia and Italy. She is passionate about how medicine, diet and lifestyle affect our health and enjoys helping people understand this. In her spare time she loves to explore the world and learn about new cultures and languages.


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