Is There a Role for Rhythmic Movement Training in Music Therapy?

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Photo of Dorita Berger

Dorita Berger, PhD, MT-BC, LCAT, served as Assistant Professor of Music Therapy at Montclair State University in New Jersey, followed by adjunct faculty at the Music Conservatory, Kean University, Union, NJ, where she developed and taught Introduction to Music Therapy courses. She has 25+ years of experience as a Sensorimotor Music Therapist specializing in treating Autism Spectrum and related disorders in children and adults. Dr. Berger has five published books lauded internationally, and peer-reviewed Journal articles and research on the role of music and brain in human adaptation. Dr. Berger currently holds a class in “Rhythm-Kinetics(c) For Parkinson’s and Movement Wellness”, and provides workshops and consultations on use of rhythm and movement in treating Autism, Parkinson’s, Depression, Dementias, and more.

MT education trains in ‘methodologies’ and materials for clinical work. Is that comprehensive enough? My supervisory work indicated a lack of understanding or training on the roles of individual elements of music, especially rhythm, and the integration of mobility work (movement) for inducing brain plasticity and systemic organization in patients with Parkinson’s, Autism, Psychoemotional issues, and more. Should MT curriculum include rhythmic movement training?

RHYTHM is basic to all life on the planet! MOVEMENT (mobility) is encompassed in all of human behavior and response. When music-based treatment is administered, it automatically involves rhythm and movement, since just playing an instrument or using voice requires some physical movement! And yet, little attention is paid in training MTs, to what is meant by “rhythm”, what are the characteristics of “rhythm”, how/when to apply rhythm in treatment and why body movements large and small need to incorporate rhythm for movement efficiency! The question of the title raises an interactive discussion on whether Music Therapy training considers what we mean by “music”, “therapy”, and why most training does not include work in rhythm, movement, and rhythmic-movement treatment protocols. The objective of this 1-hour session is to highlight this subject, consider training aspects that may need to be incorporated into class work, and share thoughts and ideas about why this area of training is important.