What does a Music Therapist do?

Median Pay $47,680
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A music therapist helps people of all ages who may be struggling with psychological or behavioral issues as well as those with various developmental disabilities, physical limitations, and those with a serious illness. Their goal is to have a positive impact on the patient’s overall well-being as they go through personal challenges.

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How to Become a Music Therapist

Music therapists start their training by earning their bachelor’s degree in music therapy. In college, they take courses in psychology, music, and music theory. They would also have course work to learn about various health conditions or disabilities people may have. If interested, music therapists can continue their education by gaining a master’s degree, though according to O*NET Online, over 70% of the music therapists surveyed held a bachelor’s degree.

Job Description of a Music Therapist

what does a music therapist do

Music therapists work in a variety of settings with a variety of different patients or clients. They use music to help patients in settings such as schools, hospitals, mental health service locations, and nursing homes.

They evaluate each client’s needs and also get to know their musical preferences. They then craft a treatment plan, using music, that is unique to that individual. They would also collaborate with other medical professionals and align their treatment to assist their goals as well. For instance, if a person is having physical limitations and is working on strengthening and movement, a music therapist could incorporate dance into their treatment plan. Other individuals may have a difficult time expressing themselves. Music can offer an avenue for them to express how they are feeling when words just won’t do.

Music therapists can also play a key role in simply having a positive impact on someone’s mood. People that may be experiencing significant health challenges can benefit from hearing music by their bedside or while receiving medical treatment. There is also research that backs music therapy’s effectiveness to treat people. According to the American Music Therapy Association, research backs the “effectiveness of music therapy in many areas such as facilitating movement and overall physical rehabilitation, motivating people to cope with treatment, providing emotional support for clients and their families, and providing an outlet for the expression of feelings.”

Music Therapist Career Video Transcript

According to Greek mythology, Orpheus used the power of music to save his lost love from the darkness of the underworld. Today’s music therapists use musics healing power to reach patients who need specialized care. Music therapists develop music-based treatment programs with people with disabilities, injuries, or illnesses. They teach clients how to use music to improve their well-being. It can help people adjust to life changes, feel less anxious and depressed, and generally experience clearer thinking and more positive emotions.

Experienced musicians enter this field with the ability to sing and play instruments such as keyboard, guitar, or percussion. They assess client’s needs and their interests in different aspects of music to design a specific musical experience. That might include playing instruments, singing and moving, or dancing to music or a therapist might play music to patients and invite them to draw, meditate, or just listen.

Typical employers of music therapists include general hospitals, psychiatric hospitals, rehabilitation facilities, nursing homes, and schools. Some music therapists work in their own private practice. Most music therapists have a bachelor’s degree in their field. Many employers prefer national certification. These professionals combine the knowledge of a therapist with strong music skills to illicit a level of healing that, for some patients, words alone could never reach.

Article Citations

National Center for O*NET Development. 29-1125.02. O*NET OnLine.

The career video is Public Domain from the U. S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration.