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Two years ago I set out on a research project to better understand how Sound Therapy was being taught globally. My mission was to engage this directly, by meeting teachers, academics, evaluating conferences on the subject, and informal talks with practitioners in this art. My travels took me to India, Nepal, United Kingdom, and various stops throughout the USA. I also solicited opinions through email, to Music Therapists and doctors in Turkey, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Canada, and Indonesia to name just a few.

The field of Sound and Music Therapy is wide and vast. There are many clinical approaches on one hand (i.e. Nordoff Robbins), and other methods that have little or no academic base, but are exhibited through a protocol that is simply "for the highest good." This is quite the swing of the pendulum. So I set out in 2014, to gather a better sense of what was actually going on.

Before I dug in my heels, I first took a look at how many books exist on the subject, and who was behind the research. But I also sampled the internet because this is now such a big part of everyone's lives nowadays. If you conduct a Google search on the term 'Sound Healing', over 12 million results show in the search engine; and on the term 'Sound Therapy', over 21 million results show for the term. Now of course this includes everything from musical instruments to hearing loss, but this is quite an overwhelming substance for those that are just showing an interest, looking for advice, or looking to study the subject.

Concentrating on the 'study' element of this research topic, as you move away from the university level of Music Therapy, there is a plethora of choices that run the gamut from music theory to astrology, to martial arts and even crystals. Much of this unfortunately, is musical instrument based, so it has more in common with learning a sound or musical instrument, than actual science and theory. The American educator Dr. Ruth Beechick once said' " A teacher who loves learning earns the right and the ability to help others learn." With this in mind, an evaluation was conducted to ascertain the qualifications of those teaching others. This was quite revealing to say the least, many of those teaching others are self taught themselves; and with little or no academic background or studies with others aligned in the field. Not that this should be the sole criteria, because many studies in Asia for example are from an Oral Tradition, and should be respected. But this area is a tricky one littered with channeling, and otherworldly aspects that are subjective rather than objective. But this is not a condemnation of the metaphysical, but more of a warning to those to have a disposition to not engage the necessary work to become educated, especially when it can involve the well being of others.

This is an area that I am quite familiar with, having taught Sound Therapy in the USA and abroad now for over 4 decades. In that time I have engaged many wonderful teachers, and in some cases, one's that are more aligned with the indigenous world than the academic. Different teaching styles have an affect on student learning, no two teachers teach the same way, just as no two students learn something the same way. This can be broken down into the Teacher Centered Approach, Student Centered Approach, Inquiry Based Learning, and Cooperative Learning for example. So the method regardless of academic credentials can make all the difference in how a student learns. So this is very important and should be a major consideration for those wishing to study Sound Therapy, like any other modality. A word of caution, you basically get what you pay for, so carefully analyze what you are receiving for your money spent on learning. This is also another slippery area, because many programs are costly and they promise many things, but they are at times simply a masquerade for musical instrument lessons and not a solid foundation in acquiring the qualifications of becoming a Sound Therapist, or simply a selling tool to sell you an instrument. What are these qualifications? Studies that involve the science of sound, psychology, physiology, anatomy, theory, methodology, history (Confucius said "A true teacher is one who, keeping the past alive, is also able to understand the present"), and philosophy to name but a few. This is the starting point to become an effective and skilled practitioner.

Evaluating this data brought me to many conclusions. First, the conversation of Sound Therapy is generally guided or steered by those that call it Sound Healing; which is a very suggestive title, and can in many cases, mean many different things. Honestly, in some cases this is a disservice, and should be discussed in an open forum to bring clarity. Second, there is little criteria to form the qualifications of those practicing. It runs the gamut of a weekend of studies at best, and in most cases, learning does not exceed 100 hours. I think it's fair to say that most people spend more time on learning how to drive a car, than actually studying Sound Therapy. Third, why has it taken so long to have an honest debate on this subject, when search engine results on Google show an overwhelming popularity?

Is this simply an exercise in allowing the marketplace to decide? Past experience in many fields including medicine dictates, that the last person talking about it, should not be the pharmaceutical companies; or in agriculture, Monsanto for example. Honest assessments should be conducted, open dialog and inquiry is suggested, and measured debate should be encouraged. I feel that the common ground in the end is to motivate better teaching methods, and more scholarly and effective students.

©2015 Mitch Nur, PhD
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Mitch Nur, PhD
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