What is Neurologic Music Therapy?

Neurologic Music Therapy (NMT) is an advanced form of music therapy that uses research-based techniques to treat the brain using music and rhythm. NMT uses these techniques to achieve non-musical goals such as speech, physical movement, cognition and other conditions of the nervous system. It is defined as, “the therapeutic application of music to cognitive, sensory, and motor function due to neurologic disease of the human nervous system.”

Research has shown that rhythm and music affect multiple areas of the human brain at once on a subconscious level. Because of this fact, rhythm can be used to help build new connections in the brain (called neuropathways) thus improving a subject’s brain function and allowing them to lead more productive and functional lives. 

As Neurologic Music Therapists, we specialize in serving individuals with neurologic impairments including but not limited to: Autism Spectrum Disorder, Developmental Disabilities, Cerebral Palsy, Multiple Sclerosis, Stroke, Traumatic Brain Injury, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and Dementia.

For more information about the research and development of NMT, read Handbook of Neurologic Music Therapy, 2014 by Dr. Michael Thaut and Rhythm, Music, and the Brain: Scientific Foundations and Clinical Applications, 2005 by Dr. Michael Thaut.

What is the difference between Neurologic Music Therapy and regular music therapy?

While general music therapy seeks to treat many different aspects of patient need (emotional, physical, mental, etc.) through playing or writing music, Neurologic Music Therapy focuses specifically on music and rhythm’s physical affect on the brain and brain connections (called neuropathways) through specific research-based techniques (called NMT interventions). NMT interventions are applied in a consistent manner based on the therapeutic goal of the client.

Neurologic Music Therapists are required to have completed additional training above and beyond standard music therapy certification in order to maintain their NMT designation.

What education is required to become a Neurologic Music Therapist?

Neurologic Music Therapists must first complete an undergraduate program in music therapy focusing on fundamental music courses, psychology, anatomy, research and statistics, and supervised clinical placements. Each graduate then completes a 1000 hour internship under the supervision of an accredited/certified music therapist before writing comprehensive board exams to obtain certification through the national Certification Board for Music Therapists resulting in the credential “Music Therapist – Board Certified” (MT-BC). The Canadian Association of Music Therapy (CAMT) then grants a music therapist the credentials “Music Therapist Accredited” (MTA). Additionally, a music therapist must also complete the 4-day, 30-hour training institute at the ‘Robert F. Unkefer’ Academy of Neurologic Music Therapy, which allows the accredited/board-certified music therapist to practice and use the professional designation of Neurologic Music Therapist (NMT) for three years.

Therapists then either need to return to the Academy to renew their training, or can return for the Advanced Training Institute, which and become registered as a Fellow of the Academy (NMT Fellow). The status of Fellow is maintained by successful completion of the Advanced Training Institute every five years thereafter.

 Visit the ‘Robert F. Unkefer’ Academy of Neurologic Music Therapy website for more information.

Pediatric populations can work on:

  • language acquisition and communication skills (both expressive and receptive skills)
  • Focus and attending behaviours
  • learning academic skills (numeracy, shapes, colours, letters, patterns, etc.,)
  • Social interaction and play skills (sharing, waiting, turn taking, transitioning, parallel play, dramatic/imaginative play)
  • Fine and gross motor movement (pincer grip, palmar grasp, balance, coordination, motor sequencing, etc.,)
  • Sensory integration
  • Emotional development (self-esteem, leadership skills, dealing with frustration, learning emotions and recognizing facial affect)

Rehabilitation Populations(including TBI, Stroke) can work on:

  • Assist in regaining range of motion
  • Strengthen fine and gross motor movements
  • Build endurance and muscle memory
  • Improve motor sequencing, balance
  • Improve gait patterns
  • Relearn speech
  • Oral motor strengthening and more!

We love to work alongside your physical therapists, occupational therapists and speech and language pathologists to help you achieve your end goals each step of the way!

Aging Populations can work on:

  • Working memory
  • Reminiscence
  • Executive functioning
  • Range of motion
  • Sensory integration
  • Supporting emotional well-being
  • Decreasing stress and anxiety
  • Palliative services