Music Therapist

Music Therapists provide treatment for physical, psychological, cognitive, and social needs of individuals through the structured and specialized use of music. Music therapists assess emotional well-being, physical health, social functioning, communication abilities, and cognitive skills through musical responses. They design music sessions for individuals and groups based on client needs. These sessions may include music improvisation, receptive music listening, song writing, discussion of lyrics, music and imagery, music performance, and learning through music. Music therapists participate in treatment planning, ongoing evaluation, and follow-up.

Nature of Work

Music therapists plan, organize, and direct music activities that will produce behavior changes in persons who have mental, emotional, and physical disabilities.  While many music therapists are employed in psychiatric hospitals and rehabilitative facilities, school systems are increasingly recognizing the value of including music therapy in their curriculum. Music therapists often foster and develop an appreciation and love for music with students who have disabilities.

Education Required

A bachelor's degree is the minimum requirement. Most music therapists have undergraduate degrees in music, education, music therapy, psychology, or special education. In addition, completion of an approved music therapy program is a requirement in many school systems.

Personal Qualities

Music therapists genuinely enjoy a wide range of musical styles and are technically competent in music theory and composition. They are patient, creative, and resourceful, and are committed to helping others benefit from musical experiences. Music therapists work well independently but collaborate willingly with many special education professionals. They have excellent organizational skills and can quickly improvise therapy treatment  if necessary.

Job Outlook and Advancement

Employment of all special education professionals, including music therapist positions is expected to increase much faster than the average for all occupations through the year 2005. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, special education and related services job openings will result from educational reform, legislation, growing public interest in individuals with special needs, and the continued growth in the number of students needing services. Music therapists with advanced degrees can move into supervisory positions in school systems, do research, or teach at the college level. Private practice is also an option for music therapists.

How to Prepare for a Career

Participate in as many school and community music activities as possible. Sing and learn to play at least one instrument. Volunteer to work with children and music in day care centers, summer recreation programs, churches, and community theater events. Contact the special education administrator in your school system and ask if a music therapist is on the staff. If so, request an appointment with the music therapist and ask about the profession.   High school students interested in music therapy should take a variety of music classes (including music theory), as well as courses in science, English, communications, and psychology.

Resource Information

American Music Therapy Association, Inc.
8455 Colesville Road, Suite 1000
Silver Spring, Maryland 20910-3392
(301)-589-5175 Fax