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What is Music Therapy?

So what do you do anyway?

Who do you work with?

I love harp music! It’s so relaxing! So do you just play for people to make them feel better?

Are you a harp therapist?

Drumming is so therapeutic

Hey! I heard about a thing where they give iPods to nursing home residents.

Music is all around us. Various people use music in different ways to help people in need. Some musicians even have special training to use music in focused ways such as at the bedsides of those who are ill or dying. However, just as one might say that they nursed a family member back to health, they are not a nurse unless they have completed the studies and taken the examinations to become one. A person trained in first aid is not an EMT though both fulfill a vital role. The American Music Therapy Association says, “The music therapy profession is not defined by a single music intervention or experience, but rather a continuum of skills sets (simple to complex) that make the profession unique”. (AMTA 2015)

I am a Board-certified Music Therapist. I received a Bachelor’s degree in Music Therapy and took the examination to become board-certified through the Certification Board for Music Therapy. What I do is both simple and complex and is based on current research.

What do I do, really? It depends on the client’s needs, strengths and interests. I get to know the client through the assessment process. I develop a plan that meets their needs as identified. I might use receptive (more passive) methods or expressive, where the client takes an active role in creating music, performing physical exercises, etc. Harp is only one of the instruments I use. If a client requires hand over hand assistance, recorded music might be the best way to go. Continued evaluation helps me to know whether or not the client is benefitting from my services and whether or not I need to create a new plan, discharge the client from treatment or refer them to another professional.

Where do I work? I work in private practice and come to the client whether they live at home or in a residential facility. I have worked in nursing homes and schools. Music therapists also work in hospitals, community based mental health programs, prisons, and more.

I plan to talk more in the future about how the field of Music therapy fits into the continuum of music based programs but I love this statement by the American Music therapy Association:

“Music therapists recognize that in order for clients to benefit from an integrated, holistic treatment approach, there will be some overlap in services provided by multiple professions. We acknowledge that other professionals may use music, as appropriate, as long as they are working within their scope.” (AMTA 2015)

To find out more about the American Music therapy Association please visit

The Certification Board for Music Therapists

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