• ADHD books published by NorthEast Books & Publishing, by Association for Youth, Children and Natural Psychology
  • ADHD books published by NorthEast Books & Publishing, by Association for Youth, Children and Natural Psychology


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Book covers in this column are Amazon-linked (off-site).

Unless otherwise stated, all text links are to on-site AYCNP pages.

The New Music Therapist's Handbook,
by Suzanne B. Hanser

The New Music Therapist's Handbook for students and professionals of music therapy.

A Comprehensive Guide to Music Therapy: Theory, Clinical Practice, Research and Training, by Tony Wigram, Inge Nygaard Pedersen, Lars OLE Bonde

Music therapists, as in medical and paramedical professions, have a rich diversity of approaches and methods, often developed with specific relevance to meet the needs of a certain client population. This book reflects the many components of such diversity, and is a thoroughly comprehensive guide.

An Introduction to Music Therapy: Theory and Practice, 3rd Edition, by William B. Davis, Kate E. Gfeller, Michael H. Thaut

Music Therapy for Children, Adolescents, and Adults with Mental Disorders,
by Barbara J. Crowe MMT MT-BC, Cynthia Colwell PhD MT-BC, Barbara J. Crowe

Music Medicine: The Science and Spirit of Healing Yourself with Sound, by Christine Stevens MSW MT-BC

Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain, Revised and Expanded Edition, by Oliver Sacks

Oliver Sacks' work sicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain, endeavors to provide evidence for how music affects both the brain and the human condition. In Musicophilia Sacks introduces and expands upon the idea of "musical misalignments."

Give a child the gift of music

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"Boy With Maracas, Isolated On White" by David Castillo Dominici

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Page updated: July 23, 2015

Music Therapy - What Music Therapy Is and How it Helps

Professional Music Therapy

Music therapy

What is Music Therapy?

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.

Music Therapy in this context is not a self-help method of coping with anxieties, depression, 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.

What do Music Therapists Do?

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 include:

  • Physical rehabilitation
  • 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.

    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.

    AYCNP Pages Related to Music Therapy

    Music Psychology

    Music and Bipolar Disorder

    Music Therapy

    Music History - The History and Psychology of Rock and Roll and Jazz

    Teen Depression and Music - Pop music and teen depression link - Based on clinical study

    The Psychology of Miley Cyrus/Hannah Montana and pop-music for girls

    Misogyny in Commercial/Pop and Rap Music