What is Neurological Music Therapy?

I’m excited to announce that earlier this year, I completed my training as a “Neurological Music Therapist” (NMT). What is Neurological Music Therapy? If we look at the Academy of Neurologic Music Therapy’s website we find that Neurologic Music Therapy is a research-based system of standardized clinical techniques for sensorimotor training, speech and language training, and cognitive training. It encompasses pediatric, psychiatric, geriatric, and developmental therapy as well as neurologic rehab.

Perhaps a simpler definition is that NMT is evidence-based rehabilitation through music therapy. It uses various aspects of music to improve communication, fine and gross movement, social skills, sensory deficits (like blindness and deafness), and sensory integration deficits. It has been proven to be extremely beneficial for children & adults with brain injuries, autism, Parkinson’s and neurological and developmental challenges.

Brain scans prove that music is processed globally. In fact, music making in the context of a therapeutic relationship is the ONLY human endeavor that lights up the ENTIRE brain. Even other art forms don’t do this! The body and the brain follow the intention of the music. So, if an intention is set, the body and brain will follow. To put it another way, music creates change in the brain…it organizes behavior.

With NMT, neuro pathways can regenerate through the plasticity of the brain, thus enabling adaptation and restoration to function. Furthermore, research shows a decrease in relapse rate…GREAT news for both addiction and family therapy!

Last June, Julianne Innamorato, Board-Certified Music Therapist, posted “5 Reasons Music Therapy Works for Neurological and Neurodevelopmental Disorders” on the Center for Neurological and Neurodevelopmental Health’s website. She indicated that:

  1. Music Has a Profound Impact on the Brain
  2. Music Increases Dopamine Production in our Brains
  3. Music Provides and Outlet
  4. Music Provides Structure
  5. Music Encourages Communication

To put it scientifically, NMT activates:

  • The Nucleus Accumbens…that part of the brain where Melody and Rhythm can trigger feelings
  • The Amygdala, that part of the brain involved with the processing of emotion
  • Areas of the Prefrontal Cortex, that motor cortex in the brain involved in abstract decision making in preparation for movement.

When you get people moving with musical stimulation, they begin to do things they would not normally do. For example, people suffering from Parkinson’s Disease frequently lost the ability to speak and walk. Using an instrument helps them to walk/move to a rhythm. Singing helps them to verbally articulate. And, NMT actually gets people over to the left side of the brain…even those people who have “hemianostia”, the inability to find the left side of the brain.

My partner, Carla Carnegie, and I are very locally grounded. It is our desire to see Music Therapy regularly used in the Spokane area as a vital and necessary supplement to various psychotherapy and rehabilitation techniques. We recently did a presentation at St. Luke’s Rehabilitation Hospital here with the goal of getting Music Therapy and Neurological Music Therapy integrated into their program and to get MT’s and NMT’s on staff there. It’s only a start, but we hope what we had to say will help the hospital directors to take Music Therapy into serious consideration.

Here’s a great video that will give you examples of how NMT looks in action!

NMT TPAC video


Kim McMillin

Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Board Certified Music Therapist
I am passionate about helping others to find the goodness within them and to heal the barriers that prevent them from embracing the Light of Goodness inside. Each of us comes into this world as a magnificent Sun. What often trips us up is that we learn to identify with the clouds -- ugly things...

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