What is Music Therapy?

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

In Layman’s Terms

Music therapy is provided by a board certified music therapist who uses music in a creative way to aid in the achievement of emotional, social, cognitive, and physical needs of people of all ages. The beauty is that you DO NOT have to be a musician to reap the benefits! Music therapists tailor the musical interventions to be “non-musician proof” to create a non-invasive and engaging therapeutic experience.

Music therapists may hold a Bachelors, Masters or Ph.D. Board certification is required after completion of a required 6 month internship at a clinical site approved by the American Music Therapy Association.

What Common Goals Do Music Therapists Address?

  • Promote Wellness
  • Manage Stress
  • Alleviate Pain
  • Express Feelings
  • Enhance Memory
  • Improve Communication
  • Promote Physical Rehabilitation
  • Increase Socialization

Where Do Music Therapists Work?

  • Hospitals (outpatient and inpatient, patients of all ages)
  • Schools
  • Rehabilitation Centers (physical and neurological)
  • Addiction Treatment Centers
  • Forensic Settings
  • Skilled Nursing Facilities (assisted living, Alzheimer’s/dementia)
  • Hospice and Palliative Care


The American Music Therapy Association provides two Journals which contribute the bulk of the music therapy literature: Music Therapy Perspectives and the Journal of Music Therapy. Visit the AMTA website to access amazing research findings.


For additional reading: 5 Things You Need to Know About Music Therapy

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