In music therapy, the music is what we use to captivate and engage our clients so they can work on attention goals, social goals, communication goals, or whatever the goal areas might be.

But as music therapists, we have to find and use the music that our clients actually like.

That music might be Drake, Billy Joel, or Ariana Grande. Or, artists we’ve never heard of!

What happens, though, when the music your clients’ like doesn’t appear – at first – to have therapeutic value?

I’ve come to learn that there are many ways we can therapeutically use the music that our clients enjoy.

Even if we can’t analyze the lyrics or find a deep, take away message to discuss.

Here are some creative ways I use music that doesn’t appear (at first) to have therapeutic potential – 

Movement – All you need is a good beat! I’ve used songs by the Jonas Brothers, Beyonce, and many others to get my clients up and moving together. You could have them dance, or do preset movement patterns to go along with different parts of the song.

Musical Games – Include the songs in games like Name That Tune or Music Jeopardy. Or, include the artists in games like Guess Who. I also love to do Mini Musical Bios about my client’s favorite singers and bands (more about that in the Virtual Music Therapy Session Planning Pack!)

Pop Song Rhythms – Create rhythm patterns to go along with the songs – one pattern for the verse and another for the chorus. I create colorful rhythm sheets and introduce my clients to notes and rests so they can clap or tap along to the music.

The Tune In To Teens Email Idea Subscription and The Attention & Perception Email Idea Subscription, each worth 7 CMTEs, include descriptions of these musical experiences, supplementary materials like rhythm sheets, and ideas for how to incorporate your clients’ favorite songs into the experiences.

When we use the music that our clients are into, what does this communicate to them?

I see you.

I hear you.

What you say matters.

You matter.

If I had a music therapist who used Backstreet Boys songs in a session with me back in the early 2000s, I would have been THRILLED (insert monkey covering eyes emoji)!

If this post sparked a few ideas, stay tuned! The Tune In To Teens E-Course will be opening for enrollment at a discounted rate very soon.

In Tune In To Teens I share more creative ways you can use pop music and your clients’ preferred music in your sessions.

More on that here:

Madeline Feenstra, MT-BC had this to say about the course:

“I would recommend this course to others! I feel as though this course gave me new and exciting interventions to try with several of my teen groups that I had been struggling to come up with new interventions for. Also, I personally was struggling with how mundane those sessions felt; so this course got me excited to go to those sessions and try some new interventions. “

And, Anna Ruffle, MT-BC said:

“Thank you for sharing your tips and experience with this population!! The features I enjoyed most were the resources, session ideas, implementation tips – all of it!! I would definitely recommend to anyone struggling with building rapport, coming up with ideas, presenting engaging, relevant content to teen groups. It was a very organized, detailed, helpful course! It is such a great, thought-through, and thorough course that I have already recommended it to other MTs I work with.

I’d love to see you over in the course, too!