Music Therapy

The therapeutic use of music to improve physical, emotional, cognitive, and social well-being.


Music Therapy is a clinical and evidence-based practice that utilizes music interventions within a therapeutic relationship to address individuals' physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs. Conducted by credentialed professionals, music therapy sessions involve creating, singing, moving to, and/or listening to music to achieve tailored treatment goals and improve overall well-being.

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Music has been recognized for its healing properties since ancient times, with references in Greek mythology and biblical scriptures. However, the modern discipline of music therapy emerged in the 20th century. After World War I and II, musicians visited hospitals to play for veterans suffering from physical and emotional trauma, noting the positive effects music had on their recovery. This led to the development of music therapy as a formal clinical practice. The first music therapy degree program was established in 1944 at Michigan State University, and the American Music Therapy Association was founded in 1998.


  1. Stress Reduction Music therapy can help lower stress and anxiety levels by promoting relaxation and reducing muscle tension.
  2. Pain Management Engaging in music therapy can help alleviate pain perception by releasing endorphins and providing a distraction from discomfort.
  3. Emotional Expression Music serves as a non-verbal means of communication, allowing individuals to express and process complex emotions.
  4. Cognitive Stimulation Participating in music therapy activities can improve cognitive functions such as memory, attention, and language skills.
  5. Social Connection Group music therapy sessions foster social bonding and interpersonal skills, reducing feelings of isolation.
  6. Motor Skill Development Playing musical instruments and engaging in rhythmic movements can enhance fine and gross motor skills.
  7. Improved Mood Music therapy can elevate mood, increase motivation, and promote a more positive outlook on life.

How It Works

Music therapy harnesses the power of music to promote healing and enhance well-being. A trained music therapist assesses the client's needs and creates a personalized treatment plan. Through various music-based interventions, such as listening to music, singing, playing instruments, or composing, the therapist helps the client address physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs. Music therapy can help reduce stress, alleviate pain, improve communication, boost mood, and promote self-expression. The therapist works closely with the client to monitor progress and adjust the treatment plan as needed.


While music therapy can be beneficial for many individuals, it's important to consider some key factors. First, the effectiveness of music therapy may vary depending on the client's specific needs and receptiveness to music-based interventions. It's crucial to find a qualified and experienced music therapist who can tailor the sessions to the client's unique situation. Additionally, music therapy may not be suitable for everyone, particularly those with certain hearing impairments or sensitivities to sound. It's essential to consult with a healthcare professional to determine if music therapy is an appropriate treatment option.

How Much It Costs

The cost of music therapy can vary depending on factors such as the therapist's experience, location, and the duration and frequency of sessions. On average, a single music therapy session can range from $50 to $150. Some therapists may offer package deals or sliding-scale fees based on the client's financial situation. It's important to check with the therapist or the facility providing the service to get a more accurate estimate of the costs involved.

Virtual & Online Options

Virtual or online music therapy sessions have gained popularity, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. These sessions offer convenience and accessibility, allowing clients to receive therapy from the comfort of their own homes. Online sessions can be particularly beneficial for individuals with mobility issues or those living in areas with limited access to music therapists. However, in-person sessions may be preferable for clients who require hands-on guidance or those who benefit from the physical presence of the therapist. In-person sessions also allow for the use of a wider range of instruments and equipment.


To practice as a music therapist, individuals must hold the Music Therapist-Board Certified (MT-BC) credential. This certification is awarded by the Certification Board for Music Therapists (CBMT) and requires a bachelor's degree or higher in music therapy from an accredited program, completion of a supervised clinical internship, and passing the CBMT examination. Some states may have additional licensure requirements for music therapists. It's important to verify the credentials and licensure of a music therapist before beginning treatment.

Complementary Practices

Other practices that complement music therapy well include art therapy, dance/movement therapy, meditation, yoga, and guided imagery. These creative and mind-body practices can enhance the therapeutic effects of music therapy by providing additional outlets for emotional expression, stress reduction, and self-awareness. Combining music therapy with other complementary approaches allows for a holistic, multi-modal treatment that addresses various aspects of an individual's well-being.

Practitioner Types

Music therapists are the primary professionals who offer music therapy. They are trained and certified to use music interventions to address physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs. Other practitioners who may incorporate elements of music therapy into their work include psychotherapists, counselors, social workers, nurses, occupational therapists, and recreation therapists. These professionals may collaborate with music therapists or use music-based techniques to complement their primary treatment modalities.

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  • Q: What conditions can music therapy help with?

    • A: Music therapy can be beneficial for a wide range of conditions, including mental health disorders (such as depression, anxiety, and PTSD), neurological conditions (like Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and stroke), developmental disabilities (such as autism and Down syndrome), and medical conditions (like chronic pain, cancer, and heart disease). It can also be used to support stress management, improve coping skills, and enhance overall well-being.
  • Q: Do I need to have musical skills to benefit from music therapy?

    • A: No, you do not need any prior musical skills or experience to participate in and benefit from music therapy. The focus is on the therapeutic process and your engagement with music, rather than musical ability. Music therapists are trained to adapt interventions to suit the needs and abilities of each individual, ensuring that everyone can participate and benefit from the therapy.
  • Q: What happens during a typical music therapy session?

    • A: A typical music therapy session may involve a variety of activities, depending on the individual's needs and goals. These can include listening to music, singing, playing instruments, writing songs, improvising music, and discussing emotions and experiences related to the music. The music therapist will guide the session and tailor the interventions to the client's preferences and therapeutic objectives. Sessions can be one-on-one or in a group setting.
  • Q: How does music therapy work?

    • A: Music therapy works by harnessing the power of music to stimulate and engage various parts of the brain, influencing mood, emotions, and behavior. It can help regulate physiological responses (like heart rate and breathing), reduce stress and anxiety, and promote relaxation. Music also serves as a non-verbal means of communication and expression, allowing individuals to process and express feelings that may be difficult to put into words. Additionally, the social aspects of music-making can foster connection, support, and a sense of belonging.
  • Q: How can I find a qualified music therapist?

    • A: To find a qualified music therapist, you can start by searching online directories provided by professional organizations, such as the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA) or the Certification Board for Music Therapists (CBMT). These directories allow you to search for board-certified music therapists in your area. You can also ask for referrals from healthcare providers, mental health professionals, or local hospitals and clinics that may offer music therapy services.


Music therapy is a powerful and versatile therapeutic approach that harnesses the innate qualities of music to promote healing, growth, and well-being. By engaging individuals in musical experiences tailored to their needs, music therapy can address a wide range of physical, emotional, cognitive, and social challenges. It offers a creative, non-verbal means of expression and communication, allowing individuals to process and explore their thoughts and feelings in a supportive environment. Whether used as a standalone treatment or in conjunction with other complementary practices, music therapy has the potential to enhance quality of life and foster positive change for people of all ages and abilities. As research continues to demonstrate its effectiveness across various domains, music therapy is gaining recognition as a valuable and evidence-based approach to healthcare and personal growth.