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What is Music Therapy and How Can it Help?

Written by: Leslie Jones,MMT, MT-BC

Can you imagine a world without music? A week without it? Even a day with absolutely no music? Even if you can, you probably don’t want to because you are like majority of human beings, who love music. Music is a part of our culture, our daily routines, significant life events, even a part of our biological make up. If you think about it, we all breathe to a rhythm, speak with rhythm and pitch, and our hearts are a continuous rhythm filling us with life. We enjoy music so much because we are inherently made of music!
A music therapist takes this very idea and utilizes music in many different ways to help people reach their therapy goals. Since we are so affected by music as human beings, it is a great tool for therapy. Music is enjoyed throughout the lifespan and has the ability to affect people physically, emotionally, cognitively, socially and spiritually. Whether using music to help motivate speech and movement, distract, rehabilitate, express feelings, or bring people together, the focus in music therapy is the person and the therapeutic goals they are working towards.

The definition-“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, 2010

Music therapists may hold a Bachelors, Masters or Ph.D. Graduates of colleges or universities from more than 70 approved music therapy programs are eligible to take a national examination administered by the Certification Board for Music Therapists (CBMT). After successful completion of the CBMT examination, graduates are issued the credential necessary for professional practice, Music Therapist-Board Certified (MT-BC).

So you may be asking yourself? Is music therapy a possible choice for me or my loved one?

Consider these questions:

  1. Does your loved one have an IEP? – Music therapists create musical interventions to work towards mastery of IEP goals in a fun and motivational way and can provide tips for using music outside of therapy at home, with teachers, and with other therapists.
  2. Does your loved one enjoy, or are they motivated by music? – This is usually a yes for most people, and why music therapy can have great success. A child wants to reach for that cymbal to play along and work on their core strength, without realizing they are working, because it is music and it is fun!
  3. Is your loved one currently receiving other therapies? – Music therapy is a great complementary therapy, which can aid with other therapy goals, ending up with quicker results. Music therapists often collaborate and work alongside other therapists (SLPs, OTs, PTs) combining expertise to create the best treatment plan possible for their patients.

If you answered yes to any of those questions, then music therapy may be something you wish to consider and look into. We can’t deny the power of music, so why not use it to our benefit!

You can learn more at the following links:

The music therapy profession:

Research and fact sheets for specific populations:

Musical Bridges Music Therapy: