What is music therapy?

According to the American Music Therapy Association, 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.”

Music therapists use music to meet the psychological, physical, emotional, spiritual, and social needs of patients and their families.

A music therapist completes the following:

  • A four-year degree program from an approved college or university.
  • Clinical training experiences, concluding with a 6-10 month internship.
  • A board certification exam.

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 settings 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 evaluate a patient's emotional well-being, physical health, physiological (bodily) responses, perceptual/motor skills, social functioning, communication abilities, and cognitive (mental and intellectual) skills through observation and discussion with the patient and/or family members.

The music therapist identifies and considers a patient’s musical background and musical preferences, then designs goals and activities that are used within sessions to meet the patient's needs. Some of these activities include:

  • Music listening
  • Lyric discussion
  • Music-assisted relaxation
  • Singing
  • Instrument playing
  • Songwriting
  • Musical entrainment (matching movement with the rhythm of the music).

A music therapist also takes part in treatment planning and the ongoing evaluation and follow-up care of the patient.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 12/28/2016.


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