So What Does That Look Like Exactly? Part II : Re-Creative Music

Most people I meet don’t have a clue what I do as a Board Certified Music Therapist. It’s hard to conceptualize something you’ve never seen or experienced before, and because music therapy is used in such broad populations (medical, psych, school, special needs, veterans, all ages, etc.) and for such widespread goals, sometimes it’s hard to keep track of it all! 

When I was in college, my teacher broke down music therapy interventions into four main categories to help us keep it all straight: 

    1. Receptive Music 
    2. Re-creative Music 
    3. Composition
    4. Improvisation 



Whew. Re-creative music is huge. In short, when Music Therapists use re-creative music therapy interventions, they encompass the use of any pre-composed song. Here are some examples:

  • Our Day Program learned and performed part of Bruno Mars’s “Count on Me” which challenged cognitive goals like attention while also promoting positive socialization and emotional support

  • “Down on the Corner” not only sparked memory and motivation, but helped promote maintenance of strength and range of motion for older adults in an assisted living facility

  • While promoting socialization and the physical benefits of active music making in the moment, “Sentimental Journey” then prompts further lyric analysis and discussion to encourage expression, reminiscence, and sense of self

  • “Old King Cole,” a familiar childhood rhyme, promotes developmental goals including imaginative play, motor skills, and vocalization for children

  • By learning a simple instrument to play their favorite songs, these hospitalized children were given a beautiful new way to cope in an otherwise very scary and uncertain situation

While pre-composed music can certainly be used in a receptive intervention, re-creative music interventions specifically highlight the element of active music making within a safe and guided therapeutic relationship. The beauty of music comes from the client’s growth and/or experience, not a perfect performance.