What is Integrative Music and Arts Therapies? (what is IMAT)

IMAT involves integrating Music Therapy with other arts (Art, Dance/Movement,Theater). It is based on the premise that all expression is metaphorical. Music, art, dance and drama are interchangeable as sound, color, and form express the same feelings yet involve various parts of the brain. This treatment alternative can reach the core of an individual through the non-verbal aspect of the creative process. By allowing the individual the freedom of creative expression in a safe, trusting environment, the arts can provide a new language of self -discovery that can be used to teach concepts, enhance self-awareness and self -confidence, and provide a path to re-experience the developmental stages of infancy that were interrupted by processing or physical disabilities. The creative arts therapy process can be broken down into four phases:

Phase 1 – Assessment

During the assessment phase, therapists work to make the client feel safe and comfortable in order to nurture their motivation to take part in the creative process. From the information gathered during this phase, the therapist begins to develop an approach that considers the specific needs of the client. Musical and arts experiences are designed to help the specific issue, whether it is development of language and communication skills, attention deficit issues, socialization or behavior problems, sensory integration or motor dysfunction, or a desire to learn an instrument through our adaptive teaching program.

Phase 2 – Creative Exploration and the Recognition of Self

As the therapist’s understanding of the individual develops, and symptoms and strengths have been assessed, the process of creating new forms of expression begins to unfold. Each client’s needs are very different and so are the forms their sessions take. For example, when considering working with children who have developmental delays and severe processing issues, or those children with autism who are silent and withdrawn, one must realize that these children are still functioning at the primary process level of thinking or at the level of pre-verbal thought. Ideas, images, people, or anything in their environment are not necessarily mentally named in words. If there are no words processed as representations, whereby only pictures or forms exist, it becomes impossible to communicate ideas through verbal language. Many of these children rely on the development of a trusting therapeutic relationship so that they can begin to ‘play’.

Phase 3 – Transition into Re-patterning

Self-awareness for a person with communication disorders is a crucial step towards re-patterning behavior. Only when they have felt the experience of ‘self’ through creative expression can they begin to realize the boundary between their individual inner world and their environment. At that point, defensive postures are lessened as they begins to realize that they are in control of their own reality. When the fear of being invaded begin to subside, self-expression becomes freer and continues to blossom. The integration of language and communication skills is crucial to this phase. Music, art and movement become a language in itself to be translated into words. Just as improvised music is considered to be the mirror of personality, words become the mirror of artistic expression. As the ability to communicate increases so does the potential for processing reality. As self-confidence and self-awareness begin to grow, so does the desire to communicate thoughts and ideas.

Phase 4 – Living in a “New Reality”: Integration of Internal and External Worlds

At this stage, the arts therapy experience combines cognitive and reflective processing. As a client continues to vocalize and initiate words to express specific ideas, improvisation becomes a vehicle for songwriting, learning an instrument, letter and number recognition, working out conflicts through musical expression and storytelling through words and pictures. The inherent power of the creative process, as a vehicle for healing, is that the music and visual art become both the symbol and the means of growth. The continuous act of creating something new enables an individual at any age to constantly re-examine themselves and the reality they inhabit at that particular time. This new self-concept and understanding is the key to accepting the new relationship between their internal and external worlds.

Music and Stages of Development

Many parents are aware of the power of music to stimulate and develop the brain. However, what they don’t realize is that pairing certain musical activities with specific phases of a child’s development helps achieve necessary milestones for healthier social, emotional and academic growth.

Why the Stanley Greenspan Model?

Dr. Stanley Greenspan, who created DIR(developmentally, individual, relationship based) model, Floortime, and related strategies to facilitate emotional, social and cognitive growth in children with developmental delays, has identified six stages that describe the levels of your baby’s mind from infancy to pre-K. For children with special needs who have not progressed through these stages at the same time that neurotypical babies do, they serve as important markers of needs that have to be fulfilled for overall development and well-being.

What are the stages of development that need to be fulfilled for growth at any age?

Stage 1: Security and the Ability to Look, Listen, and Be Calm
This developmental skill is the ability to be calm and self-regulated, while at the same time interested and engaged in the world.

Stage 2: Relating: The Ability to Feel Warm and Close to Others
This skill is expressed when the child smiles back at a parent in a special way.

Stage 3: Intentional Two-Way Communication Without Words
Skills necessarily acquired in this stage in which communication occurs through facial expressions, gestures and body language.

Stage 4: Solving Problems and Forming a Sense of Self
This is a stage whereby individuals develop a better sense of self.

Stage 5: Emotional Ideas
This stage is one of symbolic expression, where a child becomes more self – aware and can communicate ideas or feelings.

Stage 6: Emotional Thinking
This stage represents a capacity to reflect on future behavior, feel empathy and realize that actions have consequences.

Therapy for Infants & Toddlers

Getting an early start in the arts…

Early intervention for special needs children is important in the development of language and fine motor skills, self-awareness and the forming of interpersonal relationships. In particular, early intervention in children with speech problems, impaired motor functioning and the varying degrees of behavior disorders that accompany developmental delays is important for language development, self-awareness and forming relationships throughout their lives. Children of any age can benefit from the use of improvisation, interactive music-making and music skill-building to increase their attention span and develop fine and gross motor coordination. Skills such as sharing, turn-taking, listening, and learning the names of colors, animals, body parts and clothing improve.

For non-verbal children or children with language delays or communication disorders, music and art provide a way to address psychological issues. In therapy with music and art, a relationship develops between the therapist and client. Through the therapy process, families discover new ways of relating to children with special needs, and fosters an appreciation of their unique gifts.

Therapy for Seniors

Issues of self-awareness and communication become increasingly important to the elderly, whose skills are declining and for whom isolation is increasing. Loss, illness, depression, and the need to restore faith and hope are readily addressed through therapy in music and art.

When provided by a trained music therapist, music has been proven effective in stimulating memory recall which contributes to reminiscence and satisfaction with life, positive changes in mood and emotional states, a sense of control over life through successful experiences, anxiety and stress reduction, and pain and discomfort management. It promotes rhythmic and continuous physical movement and vocal fluency as an adjunct to physical rehabilitation and offers opportunities to interact socially with others. Music can reach even those seniors resistant to other treatment approaches due to the familiarity, predictability and feelings of security associated with being in music.

Joseph Aresso, Ph.D., Vice Chairman, Department of Neuroscience, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York, says, “the degree to which function can be recovered is phenomenal and we are just tapping in to the extent that we can get recovery following stroke or injury or disease. We hope that music might play a particularly important role in helping the regeneration of those cells, in helping the individual learn to interpret the pattern and essentially to help that person learn again”.

In the case of individuals afflicted with Parkinson’s disease, the White House Mini-Conference on Aging and Music Therapy, 1994, found that “particular elements of music have a specific effect on motor systems.” It validated the effectiveness of music to improve the gait (by an average of 25% in a three week period) of individuals afflicted with Parkinson’s disease through the rhythmic coupling of auditory and motor systems.

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I've seen Manny move from being isolated and in his own world to being able to join his peers in school and even at home with his younger sister.

- Jason, Manny's father


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