In the last year, as I have talked to people about how I want to use sound to heal others, I’ve been asked often, by those who are unfamiliar with either music therapy or of sound healing, “What’s the difference?”
This post is my attempt to explain, through two professionals’ definitions, the differences and similarities within the fields.
In a March 31st post on her blog for Psychology Today, Kimberly Sena Moore had this to say about her work as a music therapist:
The key I take away from her explanation and of my own understanding, as I have talked with professional and student music therapists is that this form of therapy is process-based and relies heavily on the therapist’s knowledge of music’s structure, rhythm and melody to influence, motivate or effect physical, emotional, or social changes in a person.
With sound healing, as with music therapy, both can use instruments or the voice to impact a client’s wellbeing; both can engage the client in music making.
The differences between music therapy and sound healing, as I understand them, are subtle but distinct: The intent of sound healing is to facilitate and direct specific sounds, and their resulting vibrations, to impact well being. Whether through a complex musical passage, or with a single toned note, the focus is on influencing sound’s energy to bring about change in people and environments.
Here is what Jonathan Goldman, a pioneer in sound healing, had to say about his work:
“… the basic principle of sound healing is that everything is in a state of vibration, including our organs, bones, tissues, etc. If these parts of the body become imbalanced they may be healed through projecting the proper and correct frequencies back into the body. This works for imbalances and over- or under-activity in the chakras and the energy fields.”
So, to summarize, both forms of therapy use music as a basis for impacting clients’ well being. Music therapy bases its protocols on what is known about music’s structure and rhythm to actively engage a client in music making for the purpose of addressing a specific health outcome.
Similarly, sound therapies use music to guide healing, but protocols are not based solely on the process of music listening or creation, but rather on finding and producing specific frequencies, which may be unique to the individual, that then can be directed internally to facilitate healing.
For those of you actively working with clients in either of these therapies, I’d love to hear how you would describe the work that you do. For those of you who have used both forms of therapy in your practices, what advantages or disadvantages, if any, have you seen?