The questions below cover the basics of music therapy practice.

For my tips on preparing to becoming a music therapy student, my experiences as a new professional, and my thoughts on current practice, please click HERE to see my answers to reader-submitted questions.

What is Music Therapy?

Music therapy is a healthcare profession that utilizes music-based interventions to address physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual, and wellness needs.  Many people can benefit from music therapy. Music therapists currently work in medical hospitals, mental health centers, rehabilitation institutes, schools, geriatric facilities, hospice programs, correctional facilities, private practices, and more.

When the therapist, client, and music come together to address specific goals and objectives, music therapy is achieved. Whether seeking to address communication issues, alleviate pain and stress, process emotions, enhance cognition, or promote physical rehabilitation, music is a powerful tool.

What does a Music Therapy session entail?

Music therapists tailor sessions to their clients’ needs and situations. The sessions may be individual or group settings. Common activities include lyric analysis, active music-making with drums or other instruments, songwriting, receptive listening, collaborative singing, movement, and other creative arts. Discussion often accompanies such activities. Collaboration with physical therapists, occupational therapists, and speech therapists is also common.

What does the research say?

The research literature on music therapy, both quantitative and qualitative, is growing everyday! Two journals are dedicated solely to music therapy research (The Journal of Music Therapy and Music Therapy Perspectives). Many related journals publish articles about music therapy’s efficacy. A summary of music therapy research in such journals can be found at the Music Therapy Research Blog, written by Dr. Blythe LaGasse.

Who can practice Music Therapy?

Only board-certified music therapists are qualified to perform music therapy sessions. Training includes a college degree in music therapy, a supervised internship of 1040 hours, and board certification. With this education, music therapists learn how to design, implement, and document sessions within a therapeutic relationship. Fantastic volunteers and musicians who provide musical experiences are often mistaken for professional music therapists. If pursuing or receiving music therapy services, please verify that you are working with a certified individual.

How can I become a Music Therapist?

Music  is the core tool of music therapy, thus a strong musical foundation is essential. A musician interested in becoming a music therapist must then earn a degree from a university approved by the American Music Therapy Association. Bachelor’s, equivalency, and Master’s degrees are all possible entry-level degrees. No matter the degree, requirements include music theory, psychology, music therapy theory, and hands-on practicum placements each semester. Upon graduation the student will be proficient in guitar, piano, voice, percussion, improvisation, and much more! After receiving a degree, young MTs go on the complete a clinical internship of 1040 hours in their population of choice. Finally, music therapists must take a board certification exam on 150 questions given by the Certification Board for Music Therapists. Now, the music therapist has earned the MT-BC designation (Music Therapist-Board Certified) and may practice in any setting!

Want to learn more about music therapy?

Music therapy is an exciting and growing field. Find more information at the American Music Therapy Association’s website.