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What's Music Therapy?

Ah, the question music therapists have been trying to answer for over 40 years. Music therapy is a lot of things. To oversimplify it, music therapy is the use of music interventions to achieve non-musical outcomes.

Music therapists use activities like singing, drumming, instrument playing, songwriting, and music listening to help all types of people. Music therapists work in hospitals to help people cope with new diagnoses, anxiety, and painful procedures. (Imagine getting your flu shot, but with a real live person singing your favorite song on the guitar, telling you when to join in with the cowbell!) Music therapists work in assisted living homes to help older adults maintain the skills they need for everyday activities. (Watch how this music therapist uses music to increase engagement and movement all while having a blast!) Music therapists work in rehab centers to help people learn to walk or move their arms after an accident, brain injury, or surgery. (Picture a physical therapist telling you to kick your leg out 30 times. Now picture a music therapist telling you to kick a drum in time to "Don't Stop Believing." Which would you rather do?) Music therapists work in mental health clinics to help people cope with depression, anxiety, and drug addiction. They work in public schools and preschools to help kids with autism, ADHD, and other disabilities learn social, communication, and academic skills. They also work in hospices providing comfort for people at end of life.

So who are these wild professionals who walk around their workplaces with guitars and bags full of instruments? Well, music therapists have to receive at least a bachelor's degree in (...wait for it) MUSIC THERAPY! Yes folks, music therapy is it's own degree. After the degree, like lots of other clinical professions, there's a 6 month supervised internship followed by a board-certification exam. At the end of it all, music therapists get to walk around signing emails and paperwork with the proud credential MT-BC, music therapist-board certified.

By now music therapy probably sounds fun, but does it really make a difference? Of course I wouldn't ask that question unless the answer was heavily biased in favor of music therapy. But this is the most exciting part! Music therapy interventions are based on over 40 years of research. You heard that right: MUSIC THERAPY IS AN EVIDENCE-BASED PROFESSION! Tell your friends. Tell your neighbors. Tell a stranger. The secret's out! Maybe one day I'll write about my favorite music therapy research articles, but it can get a bit tedious unless you're a music-therapy-super-dork like me. If you can't wait to learn more, check out the research page on the American Music Therapy Associate website. They nicely summarize a lot of the music therapy research out there and put it into lovely categories by diagnosis and population.

If you're in the Seattle area and think a board-certified music therapist could add value to your life or your workplace, check out our services to learn more!

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