Twelve lasting Effects of Music Therapy

This year my two sons were in their freshman year of college and junior year in high school, respectively. Two boys, who chances are, may one day be household heads. You could say the dominating terms in our household at this time were (are) “college” and “job market”. I was havng a conversation with one of the boys about a friend who was planning to go to college at which, before getting a job, the friend planned to get his doctorate. The bachelor degree the friend was getting is useless on it’s own in the job market. I had suggested maybe the friend could get a slightly different four year degree and continue with his plans for education so that this bachelor degree would allow him to get a job. My son agreed with me but reminded me this friend isn’t in the same tax bracket as us and was not going to even consider that.

As we were talking, my other son, who is in college and fortunately has found the degree of his dreams, replied to this conversation with “Why would anyone want to get a four year degree in something they couldn’t get a job in?” As a Music Therapist in an area where some people want to know if I made “Music Therapy” up (the more I get out there, the less this question is asked) I replied sarcastically with, “Gee Nick, I don’t know.”  But Nick, here are the reasons I continue to find and search for Music Therapy jobs;

Dear Nicholas,

The reward in working in Music Therapy is moment to moment. However, here are some of the carry overs of Music Therapy that have been reported to me by parents:

1) The non-verbal client that calls his mother “Mommy” the first time.

2) The client that hates loud noises and crowds who goes to the circus and giggles and laughs all the way through the show, even when they shot the cannon at the end.

3)The non-verbal client who can’t sleep and is able to say to his mother, “I hurt”.

4) The non-verbal client waiting to go in the pool who says, “I’m ready”.

5) When the school asks Mom, Why Music Therapy? She wells with tears and says “He looks at her and communicates.”

6) The 28 year old, non-verbal man in an institution, whom others have worked with for years says (in front of my supervisor) “No, I don’t want to do that,” as clear as bell.

7) The frail little boy who goes to get blood tests done and takes his “Brown Bear” book to sing and relax.

8) The boy who only moans, groans and wanders, develops and becomes one of the most gentle, loved, funny, participatory students in the classroom.

9) The withdrawn, non-verbal, autistic boy who enters public school and learns to play and joke with others.

10) The four year old little girl with Rett Syndrome who had lost her voice, but on occasion can now find it and use it appropriately

11) The four year old who did not interact with peers. In his last Music Therapy session, days before he died, gestured to another boy to come make music with him.

12) As I watched the five year old, non-verbal, autistic boy giggle and laugh as his Dad tickled him, I asked, “Did you see this at home before Music Therapy?” The reply was no.

That is why, Nick. I have a tool that aids in changing lives. And maybe for a very selfish reason, I do it because it just makes me happy, and so I have to. For me.



Denise Stefanowicz

That was great and your reasons sound so rewarding. Thanks for sharing!


I look forward to your essays each week. I began studying MT at age 54 and became a MT-BC at age 57. I did it for all the reasons on your list, and I hope that my grown children know from my experience that it is never too late to serve others because it makes us happy.


Thank you Lynn for reading! I admire you for going back and becoming a MT. It is a wonderful job and purpose to have! Every child has their own way of serving, but when we do things we love, I truly do believe it leaves a lasting “sense” with our kids that enables them to find their way . I think it ends up being very natural for them.One of the best gifts we can give our kids! Congratulations on pursuing your gifts!


I am the mother of a son who is severely handicapped due to cerebral palsy. I am also a speech pathologist. He has been fortunate to have various therapies: OT, PT, SLP, vision specialist, therapeutic horseback riding, swim therapy, and music therapy. Music was the key to opening many doors for him. As a speech pathologist music has been key to many non-verbal children. Congratulations on your successes and finding a job that fulfills you and helps others.


Thank you so much for posting this, People who have never heard of Music Therapy tend to think it is just a cute music class. Comments like your help in the understanding!

Conor Clerkin

What an excellent piece of writing. As a student music therapist about to embark hopefully upon my career, I will be so happy to be able to truthfully relay even some of those types of stories.

Becky Carr

Wonderful article which I agree with completely! Happily, we’ve always had music in our household and I’ve always had it in my life. IF it wasn’t for music though, I am sure that my Aspergers 4-year old would not be as affectionate or as emotionally responsive as he is with us, nor would he be singing virtually every children’s song known to man in addition to the Beatles catalog, Queen, and John Denver music! He is truly extraordinary and I’d never have known that were it not for the music in our lives on a daily basis.

My grandson also has Aspergers and lives for his music. It’s his passion.

Thanks for a great article that will surely help others.

Michael Haynes

Our club, the Highland Pickers, frequently perform at convalescent hospitals/homes. Generally there are mobile and non-mobile clients/patients. Sometimes we perform for groups in a meeting room and sometimes we performs at each persons door. As a retired Resource Specialist I’m wondering if anyone has studied the effects of musical programs at these facilities. We’d be interested in participating in a study if possible. (909) 957-0571 or


There are lots of studies on this, I can’t recall where I have seen them, but you could contact the American Music Therapy Association ( (301-589-3300) and they could guide you .


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