When I 'overvalue' music therapy...

Last Monday, I presented a paper at the International Mental Health Conference. I told them that I overvalued music therapy. Yes - it probably sounds a little bizarre to mention this to a room full of mental health professionals, but let me give you some context.

About six years ago, I saw Dr Oliver Sacks present and one thing he mentioned was that "music therapy is either overvalued or undervalued." My thought to myself was, of course music therapy is undervalued, but I don't understand how it is overvalued. But six years on, I can tell you I've done a bit of both - just as the rest of society does, so let me tell you more about it.

*See below for some reflections on the extremes of over and undervalue.


During my presentation, I also posed that music therapy was generally undervalued in our society. My hope wasn't to say that music therapy should be more valued, but to offer an opportunity for people to consider if there is some value in what music and creativity has to offer in mental health.

But, I'll admit, there's been times where I've undervalued the worth of music therapy. Similar to when I undervalue myself, I shrunk away into the background, questioning its' (music therapy) and my worth and wondered if what everyone else thought - was really truth. I still have these moments - and I'm sure I'll continue to, as I'm only human.


Music therapy overvalued? Yes, that has been me. Maybe it was to counteract the lack of value on music therapy elsewhere? Maybe it was a way for me acknowledge that I was on the right path? Probably both. Overvaluing music therapy, though, for me brings tunnel vision - similar to the times I place more value on the critical voices, and less on the helpful ones. I miss what valuable things are happening in other people's worlds and professions.

But, why did I tell a group of mental health professionals that I overvalued music therapy? Because, I don't think I'm the only one who overvalues my profession. I wonder if it happens everywhere (other health professions?) - and if it could get in the way of collaborative practice and working towards the best interest of those we work with.


Now I'm beginning to value music therapy, I'm starting to recognise what it is that we uniquely contribute to health intervention and prevention - and also the overlaps we have with other professions. I'm beginning to really see the gap that music therapy fills in existing treatment - and feel that I can communicate this to the world in a way that helps people to understand. It reminds me of a mindfulness/Buddhist perspective of value and attachment.

To me, placing value on what music therapy is, allows me to be more authentic in my music therapy voice. It allows me to contribute to social change in a collaborative manner instead of feeling like it all comes down to me or music therapy.

What does it mean to you? Have you had any similar experiences?

*A note on the extremes of under and over

Being a non-black and white thinker, it was hard for me to use the words overvalue and undervalue - because, I don't think it's a matter of extremes, but more a matter of a continuum that we move along. I used the words under and overvalue to acknowledge Oliver Sacks comments and recognising the extremes that do exist; the extremes that occur when we're 'trying on' something new - whether that something new is being a music therapist or building a new habit...

#creativity #music #musictherapy #value

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