Music Therapist

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.

Copyright 2010 Erik Taylor

This established allied health profession uses music to address physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs of individuals of all ages, improving quality of life for persons who are well and meeting the needs of children and adults with disabilities or illnesses. Music therapy interventions can be designed to promote wellness, manage stress, alleviate pain, enhance memory, improve communication, and provide unique opportunities for interaction. Research in music therapy supports the effectiveness of interventions in many areas such as facilitating movement and overall physical rehabilitation, increasing motivation to engage in treatment, providing emotional support for clients and their families, and creating an outlet for expression of feelings.

What Do Music Therapists Do?
After assessing the strengths and needs of each client, qualified music therapists develop a treatment plan with goals and objectives and then provide the indicated treatment. Music therapists structure the use of both instrumental and vocal music strategies to facilitate changes that are non-musical in nature. They may improvise or compose music with clients, accompany and conduct group music experiences, provide instrument instruction, direct music and movement activities, or structure music listening opportunities. Music therapists provide services for children and adults with psychiatric disorders, developmental disabilities, speech and hearing impairments, physical disabilities, and neurological impairments, among others. Depending upon the needs of the clients involved, music therapy sessions are offered on an individual or group basis. Music therapists are usually members of an interdisciplinary team of health care professionals who work collaboratively to address clients’ treatment needs.

Where Do Music Therapists Work?
Music therapists are employed in many different settings including general and psychiatric hospitals, mental health agencies, physical rehabilitation centers, nursing homes, public and private schools, substance abuse programs, forensic facilities, hospice programs, and day care facilities. Typically, full-time therapists work a standard 40-hour workweek. Some therapists prefer part-time work and choose to develop contracts with specific agencies, providing music therapy services for an hourly or contractual fee. In addition, a growing number of clinicians are choosing to start private practices in music therapy to benefit from opportunities provided through self-employment.

Who Should Consider Music Therapy As A Career?
People thinking about music therapy as a career must be accomplished musicians. They must be versatile and able to adjust to changing circumstances. Music therapists should demonstrate care and concern and be able to offer emotional support for clients and families. Patience, tact, a sense of humor and creativity are important characteristics for professionals in this field. Music therapists must express themselves well in speech and in writing. In addition, they must be able to work well with other health care providers.

Copyright 2007 Jenna Winter

How Do You Become a Music Therapist?
Those who wish to become music therapists must earn a bachelor’s degree or higher in music therapy from one of over 70 American Music Therapy Association (AMTA) approved colleges and universities. The curriculum is designed to impart entry-level competencies in three main areas: musical foundations, clinical foundations, and music therapy foundations and principles. Entry level study requires academic coursework and 1,200 hours of clinical training, including a supervised internship. Graduate programs in music therapy examine, with greater breadth and depth, issues relevant to the clinical, professional, and academic preparation of music therapists, usually in combination with established methods of research inquiry.


What Professional Credential Is Required To Practice Music Therapy?
Music therapists must meet the certification requirements of the profession. At the completion of academic and clinical training, students are eligible to take the national examination administered by the Certification Board for Music Therapists (CBMT), an independent, non-profit certifying agency fully accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies. After successful completion of the CBMT examination, graduates are issued the credential necessary for professional practice, Music Therapist-Board Certified (MT-BC). To demonstrate continued competence and to maintain this credential, music therapists are required to complete 100 hours of continuing music therapy education, or to re-take and pass the CBMT examination within every five-year recertification cycle.


Copyright 2007 Erik Taylor

About the American Music Therapy Association
The American Music Therapy Association (AMTA) represents over 5,000 music therapists, corporate members, and related associations worldwide. AMTA’s roots date back to organizations founded in 1950 and 1971. Those two organizations merged in 1998 to ensure the progressive development of the therapeutic use of music in rehabilitation, special education, and medical and community settings. AMTA is committed to the advancement of education, training, professional standards, and research in support of the music therapy profession. The mission of the organization is to advance public knowledge of music therapy benefits and increase access to quality music therapy services. Currently, AMTA establishes criteria for the education and clinical training of music therapists. Members of AMTA adhere to a Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice in their delivery of music therapy services. Through the Journal of Music Therapy, Music Therapy, and Music Therapy Perspectives, as well as other publications offered by AMTA, research findings and clinical studies relevant to the practice of music therapy are shared with interested professionals.


For more information, please contact:

American Music Therapy Association Certification Board for Music Therapists
8455 Colesville Road, Suite 1000 506 East Lancaster Avenue, Suite 102
Silver Spring, MD 20910 Downingtown, PA 19335
T: 301-589-3300 T: 1-800-765-2268 or 610-269-8900
F: 301-589-5175 F: 610-269-9232
E-mail: E-mail:

Last updated: September 2005