First, a quick note....
We would like to extend special thanks to Kaylee Tilton, founder of Seattle Music Therapy, 
for providing the quotes and expertise that made this page possible. Visit her site here.


What is music therapy?

  • "Music Therapy activities can range from passive interventions like listening, or lyric analysis, to active interventions like music making, and songwriting."
  • "The music is oriented toward areas like education, development of social skills, behavior modification, pain management, emotional expression, communication, and physical wellness. More intellectually and musically complex interventions, like songwriting, can be made accessible to all skill levels, and are designed to be challenging while still attainable to participants."
  • The University of Minnesota has a brief but thorough page on music therapy here.


What's the goal of music therapy?

  • "Music Therapy is about much more than music, it is about helping people from all walks of life develop skills that will improve their over-all quality of life. Skills in the areas of cognitive functioning, communication, gross and fine motor, and social interaction are common goals during treatment."
  • "It's not always about improving skill sets. Sometimes it can be about managing pain perception, providing a means of emotional expression, relieving stress and anxiety, and/or working towards behavior modification; it all depends on the specific needs of the group, or individual client."
  • "The best part is that from a client's point of view, it is not 'work.' Music is an enjoyable activity that often holds positive associations with childhood, or culture for clients. Music doesn't ask you to repeat an exercise over and over, instead it invites you to play the tambourine during your favorite song. The ends are still genuine therapeutic work, but the means feel much more like play."
  • "Above all, enhancing the quality of life for clients who have special needs, who are struggling with mental illness, who are cooped up in a hospital room, who are overcoming addiction, who are at the end of life, or anyone in need - that is our focus and music is our tool."


What is a music therapist's focus?

  • "Music Therapists design activities to highlight the client’s abilities rather than disabilities which promotes positive self-esteem and can be much more motivating. In private lesson instruction with children and adults with special needs, the Music Therapist will break down the learning to smaller, more manageable pieces than the lessons that might be used in a more typical private lesson. These types of activities provide clients with a sense of accomplishment, afford them an opportunity to work towards defined goal areas, and are a fun and enjoyable way to learn, recover, and express."


Is there science behind music therapy?

  • "Actively participating in music engages all of the lobes of the brain and because of neural plasticity – the brains ability to adapt and change throughout our lives – music can actually change your brain. The trained musician will have an enlarged corpus callosum – the part of your brain which links the left and right hemispheres. This is because both the “creative” brain, and the “logical” brain need to work in synchronicity for music making to be possible."
  • "The left hemisphere makes sense of pulse, beat, and rhythm since the time signature of a song breaks down mathematically. The right hemisphere allows us to “feel” the music, and to experience the subjective qualities of a song. Some of our most vivid memories are associated with music and can be recalled by using music as a prompt; deeper emotional work can then be done within the session."
  • NeuroRhythm is an interactive site that explains more. Click here.
  • The medical journal "Clinical Correlations" has an entry on music therapy here.
  • The American Psychological Association also has an article on "Music as medicine" here.
  • AllPsychologyCareers explains a few techniques in music therapy here.


Who can benefit from music therapy?

  • Individuals in correctional facilities
  • Those involved in crises or trauma
  • People who are aging, mentally or physically
  • Anyone feeling out of control in medical settings (especially children)
  • Individuals with special needs, regardless of diagnosis or severity
  • Those with psychological disorders
  • Mothers in labor and delivery, infants in neonatal care

*List drawn from Seattle Music Therapy's "Populations Served"

  • The American Music Therapy Association here has more resources discussing music therapy populations.


Who can provide music therapy?

  • "Music Therapists are required to complete a nationally approved college curriculum which includes training in psychology, ethics of the therapeutic relationship, anatomy and physiology, and clinical experience. Music therapy students are trained to use instruments such as guitar, piano, percussive instruments, and the voice as therapeutic tools rather than as a means of performance. After completion of their academic work and prior to taking the national board certification exam, music therapy students must then complete a 1,040-hour internship at an approved facility."


Want to read more? Here are some recommendations:

  • Journal of Music Therapy by Oxford Academic here
  • British Association for Music Therapy here
  • American Music Therapy Association here
  • Nordic Journal of Music Therapy here
  • Open Music Library's records for Journal of Music Therapy here
  • Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy here
  • here
  • Music and Memory here
  • Fountain Magazine's issue on music therapy here