Music Therapy Activities Wikia

When Music Therapy St. Pete, LLC’s founder, James E. Riley, was conducting his master’s degree and working with a large interdisciplinary team at a regional psychiatric hospital, he led a dedicated team to build a community resource for all board-certified music therapists (MT-BCs) and anyone else interested in music therapy. The website Music Therapy Activities Wikia (MTAW) is a free, online resource designed to be community driven and open-sourced; MTAW encourages everyone to contribute what they can offer (editorial administration ensures the accuracy of content) so as to bring together multiple perspectives, original ideas, experienced tips, and excellent resources. It is an “encyclopedic collection of therapeutic music activities, indexed by Goal/ObjectivePopulation, and Use of Music.” was featured in a post on Psychology Today, written by Cathy Malchiodi PhD, LPCC, LPAT, ATR-BC, REAT. MTAW has been featured in regional and national presentations. It has been on social media and music therapy blogs. It’s definitely been on my Bookmarks bar and frequently referenced for new session ideas, holidays songs, iPad apps, songs for lyric analysis, and sooooo much more. Follow-up posts will further discuss everything the site offers.

So for everything this site can offer, what does it need?! Well, it needs YOU. This site is just beginning. It’s very young. The structure has been provided, but the content will continue to grow. People are searching through its pages, but we need you to take just a few moments to learn how easy it is to edit – or contribute new – material! It feels good. You’re already planning your own sessions, so share the love! Do your good deed for the day! Website managers can even collaborate with internship directors or university faculty to provide reports, allowing MTAW editing a class grade or intern project!

For any questions, ideas, or concerns becoming an active part of our music therapy activity/information sharing community, please reach out to THANK YOU!


Songwriting in Music Therapy Practice

Jones, J.D. (2006). Songs composed for use in music therapy: A survey of original songwriting practices of music therapists. Journal of Music Therapy, 43(2), 94-110.

Songwriting is a powerful yet flexible technique. Among many purposes and applications, music therapists write original material to personalize sessions, teach non-musical material or behaviors, and engage in the therapeutic process. MT-BCs help clients write songs to express personal feelings or perspectives, participate in a healthy way and to be part of a group project, or reminisce and contribute to their lasting legacy.

Extant literature has researched the extra-musical benefits of singing songs, listening to music, and discussing lyrics, as well the clinical efficacy of songwriting. “Songwriting has been documented as effective in achieving a number of clinical goals, including increasing verbal communication (Edwards, 1998), increasing socialization and interaction among group members (Hilliard, 2001), identifying and improving self-concept and self-esteem (Edgerton, 1990; Freed, 1987) increasing the expression of feelings (Cordobes, 1997; Kennelly, 2001; O’Callaghan, 1996), increasing a sense of cohesion among group members (Cordobes, 1997; Freed, 1987), and increasing coping skills, such as problem solving (Edgerton, 1990). Process songwriting is an effective technique for both individual and group therapy, and is a preferred intervention by certain clients (Gallagher & Steele, 2002)” (Jones, 2006, p. 96).

Writing a song can be done using many different methods. Original lyrics “piggybacked” to a familiar melody, or perhaps melodies can be built from client improvisations and verbal contributions. Songs can be prepared by the therapist in advance in order to target specific client goals. Instructional songs can be used to teach appropriate behaviors or to teach task analysis of daily living skills. Social stories can be sung in song and/or set to musical accompaniment. In addition to using these songwriting strategies supported by research, therapists will innovate new methods and applications. Songwriting is an exciting technique teeming with creative opportunities.

Jennifer Jones (2006) wanted to learn more about songwriting in music therapy practice. This post has summarized some of her literature review, and the following information is presented based on her survey: Seventy-three percent of 302 respondents acknowledged inclusion of original music in their work. Music therapists tended to report that songwriting was generally easy or almost always easy, and though participants learned through school and internship programs, songwriting skills were most frequently reported to be developed on their own, on the job. The most highly rated compositional choice was musical similarity to client preferences.

MT-BCs serving early childhood, schools, and individuals with developmental disabilities were much more likely to write songs than therapists working in older adult and mental health settings. Goals areas addressed through songwriting included emotional-expression (42 respondents), cognitive-academic-learning (37), behavioral-attentional-task-directed (25), social-communication goals (25), multiple goal categories marked (25), speech-communication (23), social-interaction (19), physical-movement (15), creativity goals (4), no response (4), and spirituality goals (2). No respondents reported using songwriting for musical goals. In descending order of rated frequency, music therapists decided to write songs because original material can be individualized, is novel and stimulating, renews creativity, strengthens the therapeutic relationship, offers a break from routine, and sometimes just because identifying an applicable composed song is time-consuming.

Cordobes, T.K. (1997). Group songwriting as a method for developing group cohesion for HIV-seropositive adult patients with depression. Journal of Music Therapy, 34, 46-67.

Edgerton, C.D. (1990). Creative group songwriting. Music Therapy Perspectives, 8,15-19.

Edwards, J. (1998). Music therapy for children with severe burns. Music Therapy Perspectives, 16, 21-26.

Freed, B.S. (1987). Songwriting with the chemically dependent. Music Therapy Perspectives, 4, 13-18.

Gallagher, L.M., & Steele, A.L. (2002). Music therapy with offenders in a substance abuse/mental illness treatment program. Music Therapy Perspectives, 20, 117-122.

Hilliard, R. (2001). The use of cognitive-behavioral therapy in the treatment of women with eating disorders. Music Therapy Perspectives, 19, 109–113.

Jones, J.D. (2006). Songs composed for use in music therapy: A survey of original songwriting practices of music therapists. Journal of Music Therapy, 43(2), 94-110.

Kennelly, J. (2001). Music therapy in the bone marrow transplant unit: Providing emotional support during adolescence. Music Therapy Perspectives, 19, 104-108.

O’Callaghan, C.C. (1996). Lyrical themes in songs written by palliative care patients. Journal of Music Therapy, 33, 74-92.



We should teach ourselves and our students specific actions to deal with foreseeable emergencies with extensive role-playing. Correct responses may then be based on specified and practiced values and techniques, practiced and learned in advance (Madsen & Madsen, 1998, p. 9).

Madsen, C. K. & Madsen, C. H. (1998). Teaching/Discipline: A Positive Approach For Educational Development. (4th ed.) Raleigh, NC: Contemporary Publishing Company of Raleigh, Inc.



The Rhythm & Reason Blog is not an authoritative source for this topic. The R&R Blog aims to provide short, simple information for very complex conditions. Please conduct additional research and visit your doctor for more information.

Aphasia is a communication disorder characterized by difficulties with expressive fluency and/or receptive comprehension. Individuals with aphasia may now struggle with speech comprehension, spoken language, word retrieval, reading, or writing, as well as possible issues with articulation, oral motor control, and swallowing. However, intelligence and personality may not be affected if neurological damage is limited. Aphasia often results from stroke, but can also be caused by head trauma, tumor, infection, or progressive neurological conditions. The person’s location and amount of damage to the brain will produce symptoms and severity unique to that individual. Visit to learn more about learning to live, or supporting loved ones, with aphasia.

Some medications may help with certain symptoms. Treatments are best which begin as early as possible after injury. Clinical and research-based music therapy is a complementary treatment available to help individuals and groups rehabilitate speech and language skills or develop new augmentative or adaptive communication strategies. Careful control of the elements of live music and musical engagement through a therapeutic relationship  can accomplish tremendous outcomes. Music can activate most parts of the brain and help form new neural connections. Rhythmic entrainment can enhance motor initiation and control. Familiar melodies can help people sing even when they cannot speak. Vocal intonation can exercise speech prosody. Singing can augment traditional oral motor exercises. Preferred music can elevate mood, increase quality of life, and improve the overall treatment process, which can otherwise become repetitive and frustrating. For more information or to schedule an appointment, visit

Mayo Clinic Staff. (n.d.). Aphasia. Retrieved from

Mosheim, J. (2010, November 8). Music Therapy for Aphasia. Retrieved from

National Aphasia Association. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Wikipedia contributors. (n.d.). Aphasia. Retrieved from

Wikipedia contributors. (n.d.). Music Therapy for Non-Fluent Aphasia. Retrieved from


Shout-Out! Conscious Discipline Songs for Kids

Margie La Bella is a music therapist and educator who regularly updates her website with tremendous songs and resources. She co-facilitates school sessions focusing on “Conscious Discipline” for children, which in her words is “a wonderful philosophy on teaching kids and adults about their feelings… It’s all about dealing with feelings in the moment and using them to foster positive relationships – even when it gets ‘messy.'” She shares several of her songs, which are piggybacked on familiar repertoire, such as “When I’m Feeling Happy” to learn behaviors associated with emotions set to “Apples and Bananas,” noticing and responding to emotions set to “She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain,” and “self-regulation take-a-breath song” set to “Hokey Pokey.” I love them! They were so easy to learn and will be very helpful in practice. Thank you Margie!


Acting One’s Way Into A New Way Of Thinking

While serious long-term depression should be handled by a professional, worry, anger, and other responses are expected in human beings of all ages. They might be acknowledged immediately, not reinforced or worried about, and followed by behavioral techniques to actively change the emotion. Whereas “worry” or “depression” usually represent nothing more than statements to oneself or others indicating that we “feel sorry for ourselves” and, as such are definitely unproductive, the focus becomes one of solving the problems that have produced the worry, anger, or crying (depression), and acting one’s way into a new way of thinking. It is astounding how fast “worry” and “depression” are relieved when no one pays attention and the negative verbal behavior is either punished or ignored while positive solutions are praised. “Tell me what you intend to do; do not give me your problem.” “Is that what you will do next time? That’s excellent. Let’s pretend that I’m the other person and you show me what you will do” (Madsen & Madsen, 1998, p. 9).

Madsen, C. K. & Madsen, C. H. (1998). Teaching/Discipline: A Positive Approach For Educational Development. (4th ed.) Raleigh, NC: Contemporary Publishing Company of Raleigh, Inc.


Thirteen Ways of Looking at Music Therapy

Wallace Stevens’ “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” was published in his premiere book of poetry, Harmonium. The founder of of Poetry magazine reflected on the collection: “If one seeks sheer beauty of sound, phrase, rhythm, packed with prismatically colored ideas by a mind at once wise and whimsical, one should open one’s eyes and ears, sharpen one’s wits, widen one’s sympathies to include rare and exquisite aspects of life, and then run for this volume of iridescent poems.”

The selected poem’s thirteen different sections give voice to thirteen different perspectives, somehow relating to the blackbird. Here are some of my favorites line:

“I do not know which to prefer,
The beauty of inflections
Or the beauty of innuendoes,
The blackbird whistling
Or just after” (V).

“I know noble accents
And lucid, inescapable rhythms;
But I know, too,
That the blackbird is involved
In what I know” (VIII).

Perhaps MT-BCs can help their clients articulate 13 different perspectives on something important in their lives, behaviors, futures, treatments, etc. “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” evokes the style of haiku, but does not conform to its narrow parameters. Writing poems and songs in therapy sessions may take this imitative but playful approach. Critical thinking skills help us to explore every possibility and more accurately examine an issue. (e.g. “What are 13 different ways I could have handled the situation?” “Which 13 people will help me stay sober?” “Which 13 events most positively shaped my life legacy?”)

Take the intervention further and let the client select 13 songs to match their 13 verses. The trained practitioner may carefully select 13 classical songs to guide mental imagery. Thirteen song lyric quotes might inspire original sentiments. Song lyrics will be analyzed.

As the music therapists, what poems will we write? Perhaps we can explore Thirteen Ways of Looking at Music Therapy. Let your curiosity and critical thinking elaborate on 13 clinical populations, 13 non-musical goals, 13 common misconceptions, 13 key research articles, 13 powerful MT techniques, 13 MT moments, 13 reasons we choose this profession, 13 professions we co-treat with, 13 songs every MT-BC can perform, 13 books that influenced your work, 13 approaches/orientations to MT practice, 13 examples of MT accurately portrayed in the media, or 13 things we will help the field accomplish by 2025!

And here it is, the beautiful “Blackbird” performed live by Paul McCartney in the 1970s. This song is great for lyric analysis, practicing fine motor skills, or music listening for relaxation.


Shout-Out! on Mental Health

Erin Seibert, MT-BC works in mental health. She follows an earlier post exploring the way we think about MH, by now sharing some really helpful interventions that you can use in in MH or other clinical populations. Activities include a beach ball game, blackout songwriting, a wise adaptation of musical hangman, and blues songwriting – Check it out here! I appreciated her statement of clinical goals, concise descriptions of the interventions, as well as additional adaptations and things to consider.

Next, read her subsequent post, Iso-Principle in ‘Inside Out.'”