What is Music Therapy?

Music Therapy is the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program. (American Music Therapy Association definition, 2005)

Music therapy is an established healthcare profession that uses a wide variety of musical interventions to address physical, emotional, cognitive, social, and spiritual needs of individuals of all ages. Music therapy improves clients’ quality of life and benefits those with disabilities or illnesses.

Geri wih keyboard

Music Therapy can benefit those with:

  • Alzheimer’s/ Dementia
  • Aphasia
  • Autism
  • Stroke Victims
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
  • Chronic Heart Failure (CHF)
  • Parkinsons
  • Downs Syndrome
  • Developmental Delay
  • Hearing impaired
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Cortical Blindness
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)
  • Cancer
  • Many more

For a more in-depth description of clinical applications of music therapy, click here: Clinical Applications of Music Therapy

Who is a music therapist?

A professional music therapist holds a bachelor’s degree or higher in music therapy from one of over 70 American Music Therapy Association (AMTA) approved college and university programs. The curriculum for the bachelor’s degree is designed to impart entry level competencies in three main areas: musical foundations, clinical foundations, and music therapy foundations and principles as specified in the AMTA Professional Competencies. In addition to the academic coursework, the bachelor’s degree requires 1200 hours of clinical training, including a supervised internship. Graduate degrees in music therapy focus on advanced clinical practice and research.

Upon completion of the bachelor’s degree, music therapists are eligible to sit for the national board certification exam to obtain the credential MT-BC (Music Therapist – Board Certified) which is necessary for professional practice. The credential MT-BC is granted by a separate, accredited organization, the Certification Board for Music Therapists (CBMT), to identify music therapists who have demonstrated the knowledge, skills and abilities necessary to practice at the current level of the profession. The purpose of board certification in music therapy is to provide an objective national standard that can be used as a measure of professionalism by interested agencies, groups, and individuals (www.musictherapy.org)

Music therapists collaborate with other disciplines and healthcare professionals

Music therapy is another tier of patient care that greatly complements and works alongside of other disciplines.

  • A music therapist (MT) can collaborate with a physical therapist, using music in rehabilitation by increasing range of motion, improving posture, remediating gait disorders, facilitating exercise and movement, and increasing fine and gross motor skills.
  • An MT can collaborate with a speech pathologist, using music to remediate speech and language deficits due to a stroke, or aid residents with aphasia or apraxia.
  • An MT can collaborate with an occupational therapist to increase fine and gross motor skills and provide personalized interventions to assist with activities of daily living.
  • An MT can collaborate with a chaplain, to increase emotional and spiritual comfort through the playing of hymns, and to assist clients and their families through the dying process.
Addressing range of motion/reaching with instrument playing

Where is Music Therapy Used?

  • Hospice
  • Hospitals
  • Child/Adult Daycare Facilities
  • Psychiatric Hospitals
  • Rehabilitation Facilities
  • Group Homes
  • Residential Facilities
  • Outpatient Centers
  • Private Practice/Home Visits
  • Schools
  • Nursing Homes
  • Assisted Living Homes
many music therapy instruments

A wide variety of instruments are used to address fine and gross motor skills during music
therapy sessions. Many instruments are adapted, so each client is able to actively participate.

Music Therapy Goals

  • to orientate to reality
  • to enhance quality of life
  • to increase use of fine and gross motor skills
  • to increase comfort and relaxation
  • to decrease anxiety/agitation
  • to provide positive sensory stimulation
  • to promote/increase spiritual comfort
  • to facilitate exercise/movement
  • to remediate gait disorders
  • to remediate speech/language deficits
  • to provide recreation and leisure
  • to increase breathing ease
  • to increase social interaction and deepen relationships
  • to increase/restore cognitive function
  • to provide spiritual and emotional support through the playing and singing of comforting hymns and
    songs of faith
  • to increase emotional expression/creativity
  • provide the opportunity to actively participate in a music-making experience
Adaire uses the autoharp with Eunice to address fine motor skills, provide spiritual support, and the opportunity for Eunice to actively engage in a music making experience

More frequently asked questions about music therapy