Ever Wonder What Resource-Oriented Music Therapy Is?

Using What You Have Within To Heal

When seeking treatment of any kind, the primary goal is to get to the root of the problem. Sounds constructive, right? Well, for some of us, delving into what’s wrong in our lives can do the opposite of treating. Instead, pushing our pressure-points could deter us from getting the help we need. Maybe it’s time to look at things from a different angle--a more positive one. Here’s everything you need to know about resource-oriented music therapy.

Woman in black sweatshirt participating in resource-oriented music therapy
When words fail, music prevails. Sometimes conventional therapeutic methods seem out-of-reach. When we’re not ready to talk, music therapy is a great option. And when identifying the problem through music doesn’t sound appealing, its resource-oriented subset might!

A Lighter Approach To Healing

Music therapy is a treatment modality that allows us to say (or play) what we can’t communicate about our pain. While there’s no set formula for this mode of treatment, it generally involves goal-setting surrounding what we’re looking to heal.

Resource-oriented music therapy uses sound healing a bit differently. Like positive psychology, it enacts an empowerment philosophy, which is precisely what it sounds like. 

When music therapists use empowerment as their guiding force, they focus on what their clients can do rather than what they’re missing. By using pre-existing strengths and resources, patients become inclined to develop them. As a result, they’re able to use strengths they already have, in order to gain confidence and eventually heal. Some may include coping mechanisms, creative processes, positive attributes, and external supports.

Woman laughing and playing the drums while in resource-oriented music therapy
We all respond well to positive reinforcement. And when it comes to working through issues, some of us prefer to look on the bright-side! If that sounds familiar, resource-oriented music therapy might be for you! Image courtesy of iStock.

Who Benefits From It?

There isn’t one singular treatment that works for everyone and everything. That’s why there are separate certifications for those with aspirations to become physicians and therapists. 

Music therapy is unique in its ability to benefit patients with both physical and mental ailments. Still, specific subsets are more targeted. 

Resource-oriented music therapy is generally used in the context of mental illness. Most often, it’s a means of treating clients who may otherwise struggle in psychotherapy.  Those who suffer from mental disorders like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and psychosomatic illnesses are likely to fit that description.  

Others who demonstrate a plain lack of motivation to participate in talk-therapy may also benefit. With that, the presenting lack of motivation could have a couple of explanations.

Some people know they need help but are intimidated by psychotherapy. Instead of delving into maladaptive tendencies and beliefs through verbal exploration, they prefer positive reinforcement, brain-storming, and meaningful sound. In this case, this mode of music therapy might be used as a joyful preamble to psychotherapy. 

On the flip side, there’s a population that simply doesn’t believe in the ‘talking cure,’ but are willing to participate in music therapy. The equal relationships that resource-oriented treatments offers might be attractive to this group. 

Of course, these limitations and aversions are not prerequisites for trying resource-oriented music therapy. Anyone who wants to heal through collaboration and music will likely benefit from it. It can even be used as an additive to psychotherapy, which we all know can be meaningful. Music therapy, in tandem with it, can offset the heaviness with some fun. It might even set clients up to move from music appreciation to expression--a tremendous coping skill to add to one’s arsenal! 

blue stethoscope on top of an acoustic guitar
Resource-oriented therapy sounds like a winning option--especially those looking for a psychotherapy alternative. But how might it work in practice, in what settings can it be used, and most importantly, how successful can it be? Keep reading for more information. Image courtesy of iStock.

The Efficacy Of Resource-Oriented Music Therapy

While there hasn’t been much research done on this sect of music therapy’s effectiveness, there is an abundance of research on general music therapy and positive psychology. Resource oriented music therapy can best be described as an intersection of the two.

An excellent way to predict resource-oriented music therapy’s potential success, is to look at the efficacy of what it’s made of.

Music therapy has helped so many soothe themselves through sound vibration. Whether by playing or listening, it has influenced the way people cope with physical and mental concerns. Music is therapeutic on a cellular level, activating parts of the brain that are responsible for joy and growth. Since it’s primarily experienced through bodily sensations and feelings, it can give voice to those who don’t yet have words for their pain. 

Whether led by a licensed music therapist or by oneself, healing can happen. In a meta-analysis of 400 studies, psychologist Daniel J. Levitin, along with a post-grad research fellow, found music’s mind and body connection. They found that music therapy could improve immune systems and reduce stress. What’s more, they noted that music was actually more effective than prescription drugs in calming situational anxiety.

Positive psychology aims to shift a problem-focused treatment tradition to one that uses  strength and optimism as medicine. In a way, it mimics the widely used CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy), as it intends to shift negative thought patterns or beliefs, into positive ones.

Imagine music therapy and positive psychology in conversation. If resource-oriented music therapy sounds right for you, ask your local music therapist about it! They’d be happy to jam with you. 

Edited by Cara Jernigan on January 21, 2021

Brooke Barash
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