Hello, everyone! Here is a comprehensive beginner’s guide to music therapy for those of you who may have heard of it, but want to know more!


Let’s start with the most obvious question…


What is music therapy?


“Music Therapy is 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.”

– American Music Therapy Association, 2005


That’s our formal definition, but in simpler terms? Music therapy is when we use music to reach a non-musical goal. Just like how traditional therapy uses mediums (most commonly through verbal processing) to reach therapeutic goals, a music therapist’s medium is music!


How do you become a music therapist?

  • Music therapists hold a bachelor’s degree or higher in music therapy from an accredited university
  • Music therapists then complete 1200 hours of clinical training
  • Music therapists must take an exam to pass the Certification Board for Music Therapists and then hold the MT-BC credential 

Music therapists must complete a 4-year undergraduate degree that covers topics such as music, medicine, and psychology, then complete a six month internship. Afterwards, the music therapist must receive certification by passing a board exam!


What can music therapy do?

  • Manage Stress
  • Alleviate Pain
  • Express Feelings
  • Enhance Memory
  • Improve Social/Communication Skills
  • Improve Cognitive Goals
  • Improve Fine/Gross Motor Skills
  • Promote Physical Rehabilitation
  • Promote Wellness

Here are a few examples of what music therapists do:  

  • Work with older adults and families to lessen the effects of dementia.
  • Work with children and adults to reduce asthma episodes.

  • Work with hospitalized patients to reduce pain.
  • Work with children on the Autism Spectrum to improve communication capabilities.

  • Work with premature infants to improve sleep patterns and increase weight gain.
  • Work with people who have Parkinson’s disease to improve motor function.


Where do music therapists work?

  • Hospitals
  • Daycare centers
  • School districts 
  • Rehabilitative facilities
  • Drug and alcohol programs
  • Nursing homes
  • Hospice programs
  • Psychiatric hospitals
  • Senior centers
  • Correctional facilities
  • Halfway houses
  • Private practices
  • With agencies that serve persons with developmental disabilities


What does a music therapy session look like?

Each music therapy session will be tailored in some way to meet that individual client’s needs, although at A Suite Sound, we stick with a monthly theme to apply to each of that month’s sessions. The themes are great to unify plans, but are also molded to each individual clients’ needs. Especially when working with children, repetition is important for learning and a theme helps prevent sensory overload, as well as helping with memory (and don’t forget, it’s fun for the kids as well!) A music therapy session will also look different depending on the age, abilities, and location of the client. At A Suite Sound, we also start with a hello song and end with a goodbye song. For the duration of the session, we work on many different cognitive, social, speech, and motor goals by using songs, books, folder games, and finger play activities. 


What are the kinds of goals music therapists work on?

At A Suite Sound, music therapists conduct initial and annual music therapy assessments and evaluations that help establish these goals. The goals might address social, behavioral, cognitive, or motor skills. A music therapist might use books, songs, props (such as puppets or toys) and instruments to help the child work on their goal.

 For example, the music therapist might sing “Green and Speckled Frogs” with either a book or a folder game prop (a folder game is a laminated folder with movable pieces for the client to interact with) to work on the following goals: fine motor skills, academic skills (counting, colors, etc), social skills (taking turns, interacting with music therapist), impulse control. This is just one example in a field where out-of-the-box thinking drives the therapist to find creative ways to work on client goals in a very individualized session.


We hope that answers some of your questions!
We love music therapy and have a passion for spreading the word and advocating for our profession. 


Have any more questions about music therapy? 

Comment below and follow along for more music therapy content! 


Written by Molly Harrell, MT-BC





Photo credits, in order of appearance:



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