What is music therapy?

Music therapy improving a patient's mood

Music therapy is the use of music by a qualified music therapist to address a person’s physical, emotional, cognitive or social needs.1

Music therapists design treatment sessions based on a person’s particular needs. Treatment options include creating, singing, moving to and/or listening to music. Research shows music therapy can be used to:

  • Improve overall physical rehabilitation
  • Facilitate movement
  • Increase motivation to engage in treatment
  • Offer emotional support for the person and their family
  • Provide an outlet to express feelings

The benefits of music therapy

Music therapy may be beneficial to those who find it difficult to express themselves in words, including children, adolescents, adults and seniors.2

Treatment may help those with:

  • Mental health needs
  • Developmental and learning disabilities
  • Alzheimer's disease and other aging-related conditions
  • Substance abuse problems
  • Brain injuries
  • Physical disabilities
  • Acute and chronic pain, including mothers in labor

Misconceptions about music therapy

There are many different ways music may be used in an uplifting manner. Music therapy differs by providing professional, research-based practices to meet health and educational goals.3

A professional music therapist may directly treat:

  • Older adults to lessen the effects of dementia
  • Hospitalized patients to reduce pain
  • Children with autism to improve their communication skills
  • Parkinson’s patients to improve their motor function
  • Children and adults to reduce the effects of asthma

Positive musical experiences that are not considered music therapy include:

  • A hospital patient listening to their favorite songs on a personal music device
  • A student playing music in a nursing home
  • A piano player playing music in a lobby
  • A choir singing to patients
  • A musical group performing to a crowd

How to find a music therapy professional

Music therapists work in a wide variety of settings, such as:

  • Hospitals, private practices and rehab facilities
  • Day care centers and schools
  • Senior centers, nursing homes and hospice programs

Talk to your doctor about whether music therapy is right for you, and how to find a qualified music therapist professional near you.

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