One of the beautiful, unique and beneficial qualities of music therapy sessions is the engagement of live and active music making. When it comes to giving take-home activities to patients and their families, the thought of duplicating a music therapy session makes the prospect of any in-home assignments seem daunting for a lot of families. In reality, your music therapist isn’t expecting you to wield a guitar in their absence. Rather, your therapist may have a strategic song or activity that is simple and easy to duplicate to ensure generalization outside of sessions.
Task analysis songs are a common “homework” assignment that music therapists may give their families.
Task analysis songs are songs laying out instructions of how a task is done step-by step. This technique utilizes the rhythmic and melodic elements of the chosen song in the process of cueing the brain to process the lyrics and instructions in the song. This can be a song about brushing teeth, washing hands, making a sandwich, or getting dressed. These songs are selected or created by the therapist according to the needs of the patient and their functioning level to ensure the song is appropriate for each individual. Often times, the therapist will record themselves singing it and give that recording to the family so that they can learn it and sing it to or with their loved one to help them complete a particular task that may be giving them trouble. Eventually, the goal is for the musical component to be faded out so that the patient is doing the task without the musical cuing and has generalized the skill.
Buying an instrument for your child or loved one may or may not be suggested by your music therapist.
Often times, a patient will gravitate toward and favor one particular instrument above the rest. However, the instrument itself isn’t the source of the progress or functionality – it’s all about how the music therapist employs that instrument as a functional catalyst for growth. Sometimes your therapist may suggest purchasing a shaker or drum and will give a specific activity, song, or detailed explanation of why and how the instrument can be used at home in a beneficial way to target a goal. There are instances where families may ask the therapist’s opinion on buying their child a melodic instrument such as a keyboard or guitar, when in reality this may not be the most beneficial or functional instrument for the patient to have for any in-home goal work. The thing to keep in mind with music therapy take-home work is that it differs from the work one might do outside of music lessons, as music therapy is about employing music for the sake of function rather than for the sake of music.
Music in the home can have beneficial effects when used correctly and functionally. Your music therapist may give you specific activities or songs to use between therapy sessions to help the patient make strides towards generalization if they see it as being appropriate for the patient. Music therapy homework doesn’t mean being a one-man-band or entertaining your loved one, but means transferring a specific musical cue into the patient’s normal environment to help bridge the gap between music therapy sessions and home life to foster mastery.