What's behind this thing called Music Therapy?

Published by KidLinks on: May 01, 2016 — Music Therapy

Many years ago, a man named E. Thayer Gaston (b.1901- d.1970) became a strong voice for the emerging profession of music therapy. Actually, he’s often called the “Father of Music Therapy”. Gaston was one of the first to articulate music’s connection to behavioral science, even stating that music is human behavior.

Gaston’s three principles are frequently referred to in the field of music therapy. I myself often go back to my folder from graduate school days labeled “Gaston’s principles” when I feel I need reminding of the fundamentals. His principles outline the use of music as therapy:

  1. The establishment or re-establishment of interpersonal relationships.
  2. The bringing about of self-esteem through self-actualization.
  3. The utilization of the unique potential of rhythm to energize and bring order.

I love the simplicity of his principles - “Oh! THAT’S why it works!” But using these principles to elicit desired outcomes is a complex process. It takes experience and skill to arrange all the facets of music - melody, harmony, rhythm, tempo, tonality, dynamics, style, language, emotion, instrumentation, improvisation, sensation - and design them specifically to become a catalyst for change for an individual in a therapeutic setting. E. Thayer Gaston and others determined that the experience and skill needed to do this was substantial enough to design a unique educational track - and the field of music therapy was born.

By Cora Lansdowne, MME, MT-BC


We welcome relevant and respectful comments. In order to comment, please log into Disqus by clicking "Login" below, or sign in with your favorite social network.