What is Music Therapy?

Updated November 30, 2022 · 2 Min Read

Explore this resource by Best Counseling Degrees to learn all about music therapy.

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Music has a long history of being used as an alternative medicine, tracing its roots back thousands of years to ancient Greece where philosophers believed that music has the profound impact of healing the body and the soul. Although Native Americans have used chanting as a component of their healing rituals for millennia, formal approaches to music therapy begin in the United States after World War II. After the U.S. Veterans Administration used music to treat soldiers coming back from war, the first music therapy degree program was established in 1944. As music therapy continues to grow in popularity and spark demand in the growing profession, many aspiring therapists are questioning just what music therapy is. Read on to find a thorough guide to music therapy and how it can benefit numerous patients of all ages.

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Definition of Music Therapy

According to the American Music Therapy Association, music therapy is the clinical use of musical treatment interventions within a therapeutic relationship by a certified health care professional in order to address patients’ cognitive, emotional, and social needs. The brain is the command center where all human senses come together for processing, but music is the only sensory phenomenon that has the power to activate all regions of the brain simultaneously. Therefore, the planned use of musical influences in music therapy is highly effective at enhancing brain and human functioning capabilities. Music therapy is an alternative medicine technique that draws from the physical, emotional, mental, aesthetic, social, and spiritual qualities of music to directly improve patient health in all facets.

How Music Therapy is Used

Since music has the profound impact to trigger essential mental and physical brain processes, music therapy is used as a core approach in many rehabilitation, health or wellness, and education programs. Music therapists work in individual or group sessions with individuals across the age spectrum and with a wide range of health conditions, including physical disabilities, mental illnesses, developmental delays, sensory impairments, communication disorders, and substance abuse. After evaluating the specific needs of each patient, certified therapists may use music therapy by playing instruments, composing, singing, dancing, or simply listening to music. Music therapy can be conducted in various health settings, including hospitals, hospices, rehabilitation facilities, nursing homes, cancer treatment centers, or at home.

Benefits of Music Therapy on the Body and Mind

Music therapy utilizes music to promote healing, enhance social interaction, encourage self-expression, lower stress, relieve adverse medical symptoms, and improve patients’ overall quality of life. Research studies have found that music therapy can be advantageous for patients by lowering rapid heart rate, reducing high blood pressure, minimizing pain, and decreasing anxiety. Although there are no claims that music therapy has the power to cure cancer, music therapy is often used for patients in chemotherapy to reduce levels of nausea, physical discomfort, sleeplessness, and depression. Music therapy is also extremely beneficial for individuals with autism spectrum disorder to help them express emotions and improve communication skills..

For those who are interested in starting a rewarding career in music therapy, the first step is completing a bachelor’s degree and experience in the field. After completing an undergraduate degree in music therapy at an accredited institution and finishing an approved internship of more than 1,000 supervised clinical hours, music therapists are required to become certified by the Certification Board for Music Therapists (CBMT). Then, as a music therapist, individuals have the ability to create helping relationships and truly make a difference in the lives of others through music.

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