What is Music Therapy?


The American Music Therapy Association (AMTA) defines music therapy as “the clinical & 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.”

Simply put, music therapy uses music-based experiences and the relationships that develop as a result to cultivate growth and self-actualization.  Below are some of the most frequently asked questions about music therapy:

Why Music Therapy?

  • Music is a powerful tool for change because of its effect on the brain.  Participating in music activates multiple parts of the brain and creates new neurological connections.
  • Music affects our emotions.  Music therapists understand how to use the emotions generated by music to achieve insight, growth, and increased well-being.
  • Many of the things humans do – sleeping, walking, running, and even breathing! – have a natural rhythm and pace.  Because of this, a strong rhythmic component in music, when matched to the speed of a desired action can facilitate movement, speech, and more!
  • Music therapy interventions allow clients to participate in their own growth and goal achievement through a naturally engaging medium – music!

Who benefits from Music Therapy?

Music therapy has a developing body of research proving its effectiveness in improving quality of life for people with:

  • Developmental disabilities
  • Autism spectrum disorders
  • Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia
  • Mental health disorders
  • Acute health conditions in the hospital setting
  • Neurological conditions such as stroke
  • … and more!

For more information on music therapy research with different populations, AMTA offers fact sheets with selected bibliographies.

What training do music therapists have?

Board-certified music therapists (MT-BC’s) have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in music therapy, complete a six-month clinical internship, and take a board-certification exam.  In addition, continuing education credits are required for each certification cycle, ensuring the MT-BC’s are up-to-date with the latest research and knowledge.

Working with a board-certified music therapist means that you are collaborating with a highly qualified professional who is trained in a variety of music techniques and skilled in adapting techniques for the unique needs of each client.  For more information on the MT-BC credential, please visit the website for the Certification Board for Music Therapists.