Music therapy is a therapeutic, evidence-based clinical method that uses music intervention for rehabilitation, special education, and community, while setting goals guided by a trained therapist.
A trained therapist in the U.S. is one who has graduated from an approved, music therapy college program, has attained licensure in music therapy (in many states in the U.S., licensure is required to practice music therapy professionally), and holds a MT-BC credential issued by the Certification Board for Music Therapists.
Through music therapy and its therapists, health treatment and educational goals can be actualized in a professional environment, thereby leading to an improved quality of life and well-being. Music therapy is also used to promote emotional wellness as well as self-expression.
, or other mental health issues or emotional needs. It is a specific therapeutic discipline that helps patients or clients achieve specific goals in a professional context.
This approach is very similar to the approach taken by art therapy, wherein a licensed practitioner directs clients within a professional therapeutic context. Art therapy is similarly in contrast to art’s use as a self-help tool, which is quite different but equally as valid, depending on the needs of the individual. The abilities or skills gained through music therapy can then be transferred in other parts of the lives of those utilizing this therapy.
Music therapy addresses the cognitive, emotional, physical, and social needs of anyone in need of physical, emotional, mental, or motivational support. After assessing a patient’s or client’s needs, a music therapist provides treatments such as song writing, dancing, singing, and/or listening to music. The style of music may be based, to a certain extent, on the client's preferences.
No musical ability is necessarily required to benefit from music therapy. Similar to art therapy, music therapy enables an alternate approach to communication, and is thereby helpful to those who have trouble expressing themselves clearly.
How is Music Therapy Clinically Applied?
Healthy individuals normally use music for stress reduction, diversion, and relaxation. However, general applications for music therapy
Physical movement: music to facilitate physical movement
Motivation: Using music as a motivational aid
Emotional support: to provide emotional support; this may be both for clients and for the families of clients
Self-expression: music as an impetus for the expression of feelings and emotions
Who can Benefit from Music Therapy?
Children, adolescents, adults, and the elderly with mental health needs, developmental and learning disabilities, Alzheimer's disease and other aging related conditions, substance-abuse problems, brain injuries, physical disabilities, and acute and chronic pain, including mothers in labor, can all benefit from music therapy.
Specific health situations for those treated with music therapy in a therapeutic setting include:
Anyone (children to elderly) with mental health issues such as depression, ADHD, bipolar disorder, stress and anxiety, or any number of mental health disorders
Individuals with developmental and/or learning disabilities (autism spectrum disorders)
Older adults suffering from Alzheimer's disease and other aging-associated diseases (dementia, Parkinson’s)
Individuals dealing with emotional distress and physical pain from chemotherapy
Those with substance abuse and addiction problems
Individuals recovering from brain injuries (a famous recent example is of Congresswoman Gabrielle Gifford’s recovery from an attempted assassination)
Anyone with physical disabilities
Individuals with asthma
Hospitalized individuals in pain (chronic and acute)
To improve sleep and increase weight of premature infants
*Further music therapy research can be accessed and read in The Journal of Music Therapy (JMT) and Music Therapy Perspectives
Where do Music Therapists Work?
Music therapists work in medical or psychiatric hospitals
, schools, nursing homes, hospices, day care centers, cancer centers, correctional facilities, halfway houses, rehabilitation centers, at a patient's home, in private practice, and anywhere else a music therapist may be needed.
Music therapy under the care of a professionally trained therapist provides therapeutic benefits in many diverse contexts to those who make use of it.
The American Music Therapy Association (AMTA) is one of the major organizations that supports and recommends music therapy; promoting its use in therapeutic settings, and encouraging individuals to make use of the advanced training, knowledge, and skills of board-certified music therapists. Music therapy is an evidence-based, drug-free way to address many physical, psychological, and emotional issues in a professional context.
Consult the American Music Therapy Association, Inc., Silver Spring, Maryland, for more information on music therapy.
Music Therapy Organizations
American Music Therapy Association
Arizona State University Music Therapy Student Organization
Association for Indiana Music Therapy
Australian Music Therapy Association
Illinois Association For Music Therapy
Music Therapy Association of British Columbia
Music Therapy Organization of Northridge
New Jersey Association For Music Therapy
References for Music Therapy page
1. Catterall, James S., Richard Chapleau, and John Iwanaga. "Involvement in the Arts and Human Development: General Involvement and Intensive Involvement in Music and Theater Arts." Los Angeles, CA: The Imagination Project at UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, 1999. NELS:88, National Education Longitudinal Survey)
2. Cepeda MS, Carr DB, Lau J, Alvarez H. Music for pain relief. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2006;(2):CD004843.
3. Clair, A. A., Lyons, K., & Hamburg, J. (2012). A feasibility study of the effects of music and movement on physical function, quality of life, depression, and anxiety in patients with Parkinson disease. Music and Medicine, 4 (1), 49-55.
4. Clark M, Isaacks-Downton G, Wells N, et al. Use of preferred music to reduce emotional distress and symptom activity during radiation therapy. J Music Ther. 2006;43:247-265.
5. Gutgsell KJ, Schluchter M, Margevicius S, et al. Music therapy reduces pain in palliative care patients: a randomized controlled trial. J Pain Symptom Manag. 2013 May;45(5):822-831.
6. Brain injury: https://abcnews.go.com/Health/w_MindBodyNews/gabby-giffords-finding-voice-music-therapy/story?id=14903987
7. Bradt, J., Magee, W.L., Dileo, C., Wheeler, B.L., & McGilloway, E. (2010). Music therapy for acquired brain injury. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 2010(7), doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD006787.pub2.
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