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Frequently Asked Questions

How are music therapists different from musicians or music educators?  Is there a difference?


Music therapists are process-based and create person-specific musical interventions targeting therapeutic goals, such as pain management, physical rehabilitation, speech or communication, or social skills.  Music therapists are certified to work with people of all ages and abilities in various population settings and are required to conduct assessments and re-assess, set appropriate client goals and objectives, document progress, and communicate with multi-disciplinary team members.


Music educators and musicians are focused on music performance and music education goals targeting proficiency, such as learning music theory or composition, sight-reading, or performance.

What training does a music therapist have?


A music therapist academically and clinically trains at an accredited American Music Therapy Association (AMTA) university or college for 4+ years.  Music therapy programs can include courses in psychology, sociology, counseling, disabling conditions, special education, music theory/composition, music education, music performance, and music technology.  Four different practicum placements occur during academic training, and then a 1,200 hour internship with supervision from a Board-Certified Music Therapist (MT-BC) must be completed.  Upon completion, a music therapist takes a board-certification exam to become certified to clinically practice in the US.


Music therapy degrees occur on a Bachelor's, Master's or Master's equivalency, and Doctorate level.  Some music therapists who work with specific populations choose to further their education and range of skills with specialized trainings in Neurological Music Therapy, The Bonny Method of Guided Imagery and Music, and Neonatal Intensive Care Unit Music Therapy to name a few.

For more information on the requirements to become a board-certified music therapist, please refer to the Professional Requirements at the AMTA website.

Do I need to be musical or play an instrument to participate in music therapy sessions?


Absolutely not.  Music is for everyone regardless of ability or previous experience.  Many clients whom music therapists work with on a daily basis are not initially proficient in a musical instrument or come bearing a "natural" musical gift.  If you simply enjoy listening to, playing, or creating music, you can be considered to see how music therapy may best benefit you, your strengths, and your goals.

Is there a certain type of music you use in each session?


No.  Each person has unique interests, experiences, and backgrounds in music; therefore, music preferences are very different from person to person.  In reviewing music therapy research literature, music therapy researchers have recommended that the preferred genre or type of music of clients is the optimal choice of music and displays the greatest effects.  For instance, think about the type of music that relaxes, motivates, or even generates memories for you while you listen to it.  Would it do the exact same to your parents? Grandparents? Spouse? Or even strangers?  Probably not because we all have different experiences with music and have created different interests towards what we like about music.

What does the acronym MT-BC stand for?


Music Therapist-Board Certified.  MT-BC identifies a certified music therapist by the Certification Board of Music Therapists, the official organization that certifies music therapists to practice in the US.

Is Music Therapy an "alternative" medicine?


Music therapists and music researchers have demonstrated positive effects of using music therapy treatment with various populations.  We view music therapy as a “complementary” or supportive service that best benefits clients with the collaboration of other services, such as mainstream medicine, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy.

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