WHAT IS MUSIC THERAPY?

Two Children Singing

Music Therapy, a form of non-threatening, non-verbal communication, is the evidence-based use of clinically prescribed use of music interventions.  Music Therapy makes use of a client’s greatest strengths and response to music to develop an individual’s greatest needs. Individualized goals are developed within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional.  Music Therapists use their training as musicians, clinicians, and researchers to accommodate changes in areas of cognition, communication, social skills, physical skills, behavior, sensory motor skills, psychological and emotional areas.

Continuously proven theory and research indicate that the systematic application of the various elements of musical experience can aid in the following ways:

  • Musical experience requires attending, recognizing, identifying, discriminating, organizing, relating, comparing, conceptualizing and recalling sensory (kinesthetic, tactile, visual and auditory) stimuli.
  • Musical experience requires not only time-ordered, affect-ordered responses, but also demands the elaborated use and control of body parts, and thus can be used to develop skills in the planning, organizing and controlling of physical and emotional responses.
  • Because music is non-verbal communication, it offers the verbal individual a method for expressing feelings that are difficult to express in traditional language, and provides the non-verbal individual an alternate communication mode.
  • Music, like traditional language, demands the use of a culturally agreed upon system of time-ordered sound symbols, and thus can aid in the development of the expressive and receptive use of symbols and in the development of sensitivity to the various parameters of sound that are (can be) used symbolically.
  • Musical behavior requires attending to and listening to others, cooperation, participation, in group goals, maintaining self structure within group situations, ect., and thus can be used to develop adaptive behavior, interactional skills and group skills.
  • Music is universally enjoyed and valued, and can be used as both motivation and reinforcement for learning and behavior change.

*as excerpted from Standards for Music Therapy Programs, Southeastern Region, Commonwealthof Pennsylvania, 1977.

What populations does Music Therapy benefit?

Music Therapists are qualified to work with children, adolescents, and adults in a variety of populations and with varying degrees of disability and conditions.  Some examples are: autism and other developmental disabilities, speech and hearing impairments, neurological conditions such as traumatic brain injury, stroke and Parkinson’s disease, medical conditions including cancer and NICCU, mental health issues including trauma and substance abuse, gerontological disabilities such as Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, and hospice work.  Music Therapists therefore work in a variety of settings, often as part of an interdisciplinary team.

Music Therapy Training:

A Music Therapist must complete a four-year baccalaureate degree in Music Therapy which covers areas of study such as various forms of musical training, psychology, sociology, etc.  Upon completion, a Music Therapist must complete 1040 hours of clinical training with a six month internship.  In order to become Board Certified, the Music Therapist must then take a National Board Certification Exam through the Certification Board for Music Therapists (CBMT) which is accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA).  In order to maintain the Board Certification status, the Music Therapist must provide documentation of 100 hours of continuing education every five years.

In more recent years, many colleges and universities are offering masters or doctoral degrees in Music Therapy in order to expand or advance clinical skills or specialize in fields such as college teaching, administration, fields of supervision or a particular method of Music Therapy.

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