Music Therapy in Latin America
According to the American Music Therapy Association, Music therapy is the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program.
In this discipline, music is used in therapy to address emotional, social, physical and cognitive needs of individuals. Singing, creating, dancing, listening to music are the adjuncts to the prescribed therapy.
Musical expression has extremely strong roots in Latin American culture. Each country has a distinct culture giving rise to styles of music, sound and rhythm which are very different from each other.
In Argentina, music was used in the treatment of various pathologies by the native tribes. And consequently in the 1950s music therapy as a clinical practice came into being, in special schools and psychiatric institutions.
The most famous aspect of culture in Brazil is music. Brazilians love their music, and some of their most popular musical therapies involve composing, improvising, listening and playing music. Many of the instruments used are exclusively produced by Brazilian craftsmen giving rise to tuneful contrasts and distinctive scales which are endemic to certain areas of the country. Media influence cannot be forgotten as patients keep an eye on current trends on television. All this leads to a variety of rhythmic expressions and usage of musical instruments by the patients.
Multi ethnic conquests have given rise to a rich style of music and dance in Columbia. Yet it was only at the end of 1960 that Latin America began to use music therapy in its public health programs.
Since Latin music plays an important role in social gatherings, schools and in homes, music therapy focuses on autistic children, mentally challenged people, and those who are impaired in hearing. Soothing music help bipolar individuals to control their mood swings, help coronary patients to control their heartbeats and is used as an effective treatment method for prison inmates. Public hospitals in Brazil now have research programs in music therapy for treating cerebral palsy in children. Music therapy is also used to assist those people who find it difficult to express themselves in words. In this way the individuals’ shortcomings are improved and gradually spread to other areas of their lives.
The music therapist should not only be a musician, but be culturally sensitive to the type of music that the patient responds to.
The inaugural Latin American Symposium on Music Therapy at the Panama Jazz festival was held earlier this year. It was attended by music therapists from Panama, Chile, and Mexico to discuss about music as a therapeutic tool for people suffering from Parkinson’s disease, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and other matters related to mental health.
Without a doubt, music has emerged as one of Latin America’s healing professions..