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, 2005). A music therapist completes a four-year degree program from an approved college or university, clinical training experiences concluding with a 6-10 month internship, and a board certification exam. Music therapists use music to meet the psychological, physical, emotional, spiritual, and social needs of patients and their families.

Where do music therapists work?

Music therapists can be found in a variety of settings/facilities from medical to social service and educational programs. The most common are hospitals, schools, nursing homes, outpatient clinics, mental health centers, and residences for individuals with developmental disabilities.

What does a music therapist do?

Music therapists assess a patient's emotional well-being, physical health, physiological responses, perceptual/motor skills, social functioning, communication abilities, and cognitive skills through observation and discussion with the patient and/or family members. A patient's musical background and musical preferences are identified and taken into consideration as the music therapist designs goals and interventions used within sessions to meet the patient's needs. Some interventions include music listening, lyric discussion, music-assisted relaxation, singing, instrument playing, song-writing, and musical entrainment. A music therapist also participates in treatment planning and the ongoing evaluation and follow-up care of the patient.

What are some of the effects of music?

Music affects an individual in numerous ways. It can physiologically affect the body by changing heart rate and decreasing blood pressure, body temperature, and respiration rate. It can also help improve quality of life, decrease feelings of isolation, and provide an increased sense of control. Music opens the door spiritually and allows patients and families the opportunity to explore their own spiritual beliefs, and it can evoke repressed emotions that may now be released. Music can physically stimulate conscious or unconscious body movements, such as toe tapping or large body movements and improved gait and speech. Finally, music can bring people together socially, not just at large gatherings such as parties, weddings, or funerals, but in more informal, intimate shared experiences.

Why music therapy in the hospital?

It can provide a wide continuum of possible outcomes such as:

  • Anxiety reduction
  • Coping skills
  • Improved breathing
  • Improved mood/decreased depression
  • Improved motor development or processing
  • Management of and/or distraction from pain
  • Opportunities for socialization and interaction
  • Reduction of blood pressure, heart rate, and/or muscle tension
  • Relaxation and/or improved sleep
  • Self-expression
  • Stimulation or facilitation of cognitive skills
  • Stimulation or facilitation of communication and language skills
  • Stress management

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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 8/2/2010...#8817