Music Therapy FAQ

  • What is music therapy?
  • What do music therapists do?
  • Who can benefit from music therapy?
  •  Where do music therapists work?
  • What are some misconceptions about music therapy?
  • How can music therapy techniques be applied by healthy individuals?
  • How is music therapy utilized in hospitals?
  • How is music therapy utilized in schools?
  • How is music therapy utilized in psychiatric facilities?
  • What is a typical music therapy session like?
  • What Music Therapy can offer?
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 definition, 2005)
Music therapists assess emotional well-being, physical health, social functioning, communication abilities, and cognitive skills through musical responses; design music sessions for individuals and groups based on client needs using music improvisation, receptive music listening, song writing, lyric discussion, music and imagery, music performance, and learning through music; participate in interdisciplinary treatment planning, ongoing evaluation, and follow up.
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 labour.
Music therapists work in psychiatric hospitals, rehabilitative facilities, medical hospitals, outpatient clinics, day care treatment centres, agencies serving developmentally disabled persons, community mental health centres, drug and alcohol programs, senior centres, nursing homes, hospice programs, correctional facilities, halfway houses, schools, and private practice.
That the client or patient has to have some particular music ability to benefit from music therapy - they do not! That there is one particular style of music that is more therapeutic than all the rest - this is not the case. All styles of music can be useful in effecting change in a client or patient's life. The individual's preferences, circumstances and need for treatment, and the client or patient's goals help to determine the types of music a music therapist may use.
Healthy individuals can use music for stress reduction via active music making, such as drumming, as well as passive listening for relaxation. Music is often a vital support for physical exercise. Music therapy assisted labour and delivery may also be included in this category since pregnancy is regarded as a normal part of women's life cycles.
Music is used in general hospitals to: alleviate pain in conjunction with anaesthesia or pain; medication: elevate patients' mood and counteract depression; promote movement for physical rehabilitation; calm or sedate, often to induce sleep; counteract apprehension or fear; and lessen muscle tension for the purpose of relaxation, including the autonomic nervous system.
Music therapists are often hired in schools to provide music therapy services listed on the Individualized Education Plan for mainstreamed special learners. Music learning is used to strengthen non-musical areas such as communication skills and physical coordination skills which are important for daily life.
Music therapy allows persons with mental health needs to: explore personal feelings, make positive changes in mood and emotional states, have a sense of control over life through successful experiences, practice problem solving, and resolve conflicts leading to stronger family and peer relationships.
Since music therapists serve a wide variety of persons with many different types of needs there is no such thing as an overall typical session. Sessions are designed and music selected based on the individual client's treatment plan.
Music therapy can be beneficial for all ages and diagnoses. Based on the client’s needs and musical preferences, a therapist designs a plan to reach the desired goals by using a varied tool kit of techniques, methods, and resources.

Here are some of the many benefits of music therapy:
  • To promote wellness, decrease stress and agitation, and alleviate pain.
  • Access long term memory with the help of reminiscence by singing old, familiar songs.
  • Increase gross and fine motor functioning through rehabilitation exercises performed to and through music.
  • Increase communication through both verbal and non-verbal methods.
  • Music therapy has beneficial effects on blood pressure, heart rate, respiratory rate, and pain in people with coronary heart disease.
  • Improves socialization and communication skills especially in children with autistic spectrum disorder.
  • Decrease anxiety and symptoms of depression through music listening, lyric analysis, music and guided imagery.
  • Helps to fight addiction through social connection, emotional release and relaxation.