Like all types of therapies, music therapy cannot begin until the patient has been assessed by the therapist. Music therapy assessment is similar in theory to the assessment done by any other medical practitioner: the therapist evaluates the patient, determines the patient’s needs, addresses the patient’s concerns about the therapy process, and then creates a therapy program tailored to that specific patient.
But music therapy assessment differs from medical assessment in many ways as well. Whereas a medical doctor asks about the patient’s symptoms, decides on the cause and suggests a cure or treatment, the music therapist cannot quickly determine the needs of the patient based on a simple conversation. Many music therapists need more than just a few minutes with a patient; they need extended exposure to the patient in the form of conversation, observation and sometimes even analysis of the patient’s environment before they can accurately determine what type of treatment would work well for the specific individual.
Once the music therapist has determined the needs of the patient, they still have to create a treatment plan. Music therapy assessment plays into this step as the therapist uses what he or she observes and learns from the patient to adjust the treatment plan accordingly. Music therapists often create completely unique treatment plans for each patient because each patient has specific, distinctive traits, symptoms, and needs that are different from those of any other patient. Rarely will a music therapy assessment lead a music therapist to exactly the same treatment plan that he or she has used before.
This is not to say, however, that a music therapy assessment and treatment plan will not lead the therapist to specific treatment tools. In fact, there are methods of treatment in music therapy as there are in psychiatric therapy or any other therapy that are used to treat certain illnesses. For example, an Autistic patient can expect his therapist to use treatment methods that have been found to be successful in Autism patients. However, there are many different methods for each illness and the combinations of these treatment methods will differ with each patient.
The multitude of treatment methods for each illness and ailment is wonderful because it allows the music therapist to choose from a wide range of possibilities to treat each individual. However, the sheer number of potential treatments makes it even more important that the music therapy assessment is performed by a qualified music therapist who has extensive experience with the patient’s type of illness. The more experience a music therapist has with Autism, for example, the better he or she can treat the many different types of Autism that affect the population.