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Therapists Unite!

Written By: Molly Duggins – MT Intern at Musical Bridges

Hello, my name is Molly and I am the intern at Musical Bridges music therapy. Theracare is one of the amazing facilities I am privileged to be working at. I am proud because of their unique blend of services offered to families. Not only do they provide a connection with occupational and speech therapists, but also my specialty, music therapy! This creates an exciting opportunity for whole health outcomes through co-treatment. You may be wondering what co-treatment looks like and that is what I’m here to shed some light on.

Each therapy field brings a unique contribution to help a client. Each also works by a code of conduct to stay within the boundaries of its own therapy. I will begin by viewing them individually before connecting the dots. After examining each one, I will offer an example of how specialties can complement and complete each other.

Speech-Language Pathologists work to prevent, assess, diagnose, and treat speech, language, social communication, cognitive, communication, and swallowing disorders in children and adults. This encompasses many facets, from sound production to receptive and expressive communication skills. It can also mean working on social and cognitive skills, both of which are necessary for daily life. Additionally, they can work with clients who are deaf, hard of hearing, or use assistive/augmentative communication devices. (

Occupational Therapists are trained to evaluate clients in their own environment to determine goals and create an intervention filled treatment plan. They help children to improve their interactions with their daily living environments by improving fine motor, gross motor, and visuo-spatial skills, as well as improve skills in activities of daily living. They work from a holistic approach, where the therapeutic environment is tailored to fit the needs of the client, who ultimately makes the changes themselves. The focus in on fulfillment and satisfaction of life and work and is evidenced based. (

Music Therapists use music to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship while working on physical, social, emotional, and cognitive needs of clients. It is an evidenced-based clinical health practice. The therapist meets the client and assesses the strengths and weaknesses to develop a treatment plan. Music is the medium used to produce change that can transfer to other areas of life. (

Did you notice the words and concepts these professions have in common? Assessment, treatment plan, cognitive, social, skills, intervention, individualized, evidence-based….and when researching further, one can clearly see that they all want the same thing – for their client to grow towards health. So what would it look like if they came together to treat a client for the same condition?

Let’s take a look at a brief example, while understanding that there is much more involved in each one of these therapies.

Susie is a six year old who has autism. She is getting ready to enter kindergarten and her parents are worried about how she is going to interact with other children and handle the curriculum because of underdeveloped social and language/communication skills. They bring her to a facility where co-treatment is an option and each specialty does the following to help Susie improve in these areas.

The Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP) is fully trained in typical development of speech and language. They can clearly assess Susie’s speech and language skills to find the baseline and then outline exact approaches to be utilized in a systematic way. They will create interventions with focus on proper positioning of the mouth and tongue. They can also help her understand words by using flashcards and other tools like gentle teaching. This creates an errorless environment for Susie to thrive in, while learning language skills. The SLP will also use cognitive-linguistic and behavioral techniques when working on social skills to help regulate emotions and control impulses.

The Occupational Therapist is fully trained to understand the happenings of Susie’s daily life They can determine her baseline social skills and develop interventions to learn about routines of school and understand rules. They can even work to adapt materials like school supplies so the transition is smoother, as well as focus on fine motor skills and visuo-spatial skills.

The Music Therapist is fully trained to understand music’s unique influence on the brain. They will assess Susie’s social and speech skills through songs and instruments, using interventions designed to work on these areas in a non-threatening way. Susie will sing conversation songs, designed to work on things like eye contact and turn taking when playing instruments. Songs will be utilized to work on speech intelligibility. Musical choices will be given to help Susie use expressive language. Music will also be used as a pneumonic tool, using songs that teach academic concepts. As Susie meets the criteria outlined in objectives, the therapist will fade the music out to make sure it transfers to all areas of life.

Susie will experience the utmost success as she learns to speak and communicate clearly and also demonstrate improved social skills. The team will collaborate towards the same goals, sometimes working in the same session and sometimes apart but consulting each other. This will fully utilize the knowledge of each profession to give a whole therapy experience.

Since we all want the same thing for our clients, why not put our knowledge together to give our absolute best. While all therapies use tools from each other’s’ belts, only the one trained in the specialty can use it to its full advantage without causing harm. Together we are stronger and can fill in any gaps where the other lacks. When you visit the hospital and have a specific health issue, you are referred to a specialist in that field, while still being in contact with your primary care doctor to receive a whole health benefit. So it can be with therapy. When specialties combine forces, it’s like having a superhero team to help the client tackle goals! We are all eager to help clients connect the dots.