What is music therapy?

While completing some research, I came across the following quote….

“One of the biggest problems when I hire a young music therapist right out of school… [is that] they’re not sharing why they’re doing [music therapy]. It’s like…’I don’t even understand what the therapist is doing with the client and it seems like a waste of time.’ Then I observe and I’m like, ‘No it’s actually spot on.’ But it’s like they’re not communicating” (Smith, 2018).


As a music therapist, one of my dreams and goals for A Suite Sound is to help advocate for the benefits of music therapy (Stay tuned for following posts regarding my other two goals!). To begin advocating for music therapy, I want to explain what music therapy is….

The American Music Therapy Association (AMTA) defines “Music Therapy [as] the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program” (2018).

Who does this help? People of all ages may be served by music therapy. Populations include— but are not limited to— people with intellectual disabilities, emotional disorders, physical disabilities, learning disabilities, brain injuries, acute pain, chronic pain, and Alzheimer’s disease (AMTA, 2018).

What settings might music therapy be practiced in? Settings in which music therapy can be practiced include— but are not limited to— schools, correctional facilities, medical hospitals, psychiatric hospitals, nursing homes, memory care facilities, hospice, and within private practice (AMTA, 2018).

What are music interventions? Interventions are designed to address emotional, cognitive, psychological, spiritual, and physical needs of clients (Davis, Gfeller, & Thaut, 2008). Music therapists use one of— or a combination of— the following methods to meet individualized goals: 1) Receptive, 2) Recreative, 3) Improvisational, and 4) Compositional (Allen, 2013). Within receptive methods, the client solely listens to music. Within recreative methods, the client is an active participant in playing pre-written songs. Within improvisational methods, the client freely improvises music. Within compositional methods, the client writes their own song or composes their own musical piece.

What are individualized goals? A goal can “be defined as a broad statement of the desired outcome of treatment” (Gfeller, & Thaut, 2008). Furthermore, an objective is specific, short-term, and measurable. Multiple objectives support the overarching goal. For example, a goal might be to reduce anxiety, while one objective is to slow breathing to a rate appropriate for while at rest.

What is a therapeutic relationship? A therapeutic relationship is established through the the therapist’s support of the client (GoodTherapy, 2019).

Having defined the populations, settings, music interventions, individualized goals and objectives, and the therapeutic relationship within music therapy, this is a very brief explanation of music therapy. There are several philosophies, aspects, and examples of music therapy. To find out more information about this now, click here (American Music Therapy Association Website).

I am truly passionate about music therapy and I am so excited to share my musical journey with you!


Allen, J.L. (2013). Introduction. In J. Allen (ed.), Guidelines for music therapy practice in  adult medical care [E-reader version] (pp. 47-49). doi:978-1937440-51-0

Gfeller, K.E., & Thaut, M.H. (2008). Clinical practice in music therapy. In W. B. Davis, K. E.  Gfeller & M. H. Thaut (Eds.), An introduction to music therapy theory and practice (pp.      3-14). Silver Spring, Maryland: American Music Therapy Association, Inc.

GoodTherapy, LLC (2019). Therapeutic relationship [webpage]. Retrieved from                      https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/psychpedia/definition-of-therapeutic-relationship

Smith, J.C. (2018). Hidden in plain sight: A music therapist and music educator in a              public school district. International Journal of Music Education, 36(2), 182-196.

The American Music Therapy Association (2018). Frequently asked questions                        [webpage]. Retrieved from https://www.musictherapy.org/