Careers in Music Therapy

Careers in Music Therapy

People who are considering the field of music therapy often wonder what their career options might be once they graduate from an approved program. The good news is that a music therapist can work in a variety of settings, so there are numerous opportunities available for employment in this growing field.

Hospice Care

One of the benefits of music therapy is that it helps alleviate depression. This makes it an ideal choice for people who are in the last stages of living. Using music therapy to help a patient can help alleviate some of the stress that is associated with death and make one’s last days on earth more pleasant. It also helps reduce pain, which can be helpful for those suffering from a chronic illness such as cancer. Music therapy sessions normally take place at the patient’s home, and many people take comfort in having visitors during their last days as well.

Drug and Alcohol Treatment Centers

In-patient treatment centers designed to help people overcome addictions often hire music specialists to help patients achieve their goals. Music therapy can be beneficial to people who have substance abuse problems, because listening to the right types of music makes them feel empowered. This renewed sense of control is essential to helping them alleviate temptations and increase their level of determination to overcome substance abuse. It can also increase self-esteem, which can decrease the odds of a relapse once the individual is released.

Correctional Facilities

Music therapy has been shown to improve the mood and attitude of people who are incarcerated. This in turn results in better behavior for those who are behind bars. In correctional institutions, therapists normally conduct sessions in groups, and this serves to enhance team-building efforts. It can be used in both juvenile and adult correctional facilities and is offered for male and female offenders alike.

Psychiatric Hospital

The benefits of using music therapy to create psychological disorders is astounding. Patients with nearly any type of mental disorder can benefit from a music therapy program. It is effective in treating schizophrenia and chronic depression and even helps eliminate thoughts of suicide. When conducting music therapy in a psychiatric hospital, the therapist may choose to use individual or group session. A combination of the two could be utilized for patients that have extreme mental disorders.

Domestic Violence Shelter

Music therapists sometimes provide their services for women who are residing in a domestic violence shelter. One reason for doing so is that children are often victims of domestic violence as well, and this type of therapy helps them to express their emotions. It can result in reduced anxiety and alleviate the feelings of hopelessness that many women feel after coming to a shelter. Sessions may be held in group settings, and children are normally separated from adults during this time.
Nursing Home
A wide range of benefits exist for nursing home residents who participate in music therapy. This method of healing is thought to reduce signs of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. It can also be used to increase mobility for those who have suffered a stroke. In a nursing home environment, sessions are usually given one on one rather than in large groups. The therapist typically visits each patient’s room individually and customizes the type of music therapy to fit each person’s unique needs.


Those who obtain a doctorate in music therapy often go on to teach students in bachelor’s or master’s degree programs. These individuals may become the head of a music therapy program at an accredited university where they could also be involved in researching new techniques. Many states require music therapists to attend continuing education seminars each year, and people with a PhD in music therapy often plan and organize conferences to help them with this. Someone with an advanced degree could also be asked to contribute to scholarly publications, or he or she could help write and edit textbooks that are part of a music therapy curriculum.

Music therapists will find a number of career options available for them to choose from. Since music can be an enjoyable part of everyday life, those who work in this industry may find their occupation to be exciting and rewarding no matter what type of setting their job is located in.

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What is Music Therapy?

Towards a Definition

Music therapy actually dates to Biblical times, but is recently experiencing a surge in popularity as more and more people look for methods of healing that do not require medication or surgery. It is primarily used with patients who have difficulty with motor skills, but numerous other disorders can be treated with this therapy as well.

How it Works

During a session, music therapists use various forms of this art to communicate with their patients. The type of music used varies based on the result the therapist is trying to achieve. If a therapist is trying to soothe a patient, classical music or instrumentals may be used. A more upbeat rhythm could be required when trying to encourage a shy patient to become more outgoing. Special rhythms that are slow and methodical can be used to enable stroke victims to use some of their motor skills that may have been damaged.


Music therapy can be used for a variety of disorders, and some of the more common ones are heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, or autism. It can also be used to treat psychological disorders such as schizophrenia, depression, and attention deficit disorder. This type of therapy is sometimes administered to hospital patients just before surgery to help calm them in preparation for their procedure. It can also be effective in pain management, sleep therapy, and even dementia. Background music therapy is often used by dentists to help patients relax and ease their fear of dental procedures.
Therapy Sessions
Music therapy sessions can be conducted one-on-one with a patient or in a group setting. There is no format for therapists to follow when conducting a session. Instead, the therapist will tailor each one to fit the individual needs of the patient. It may begin with a recap of the previous session followed by any one of a number of components. A few of the things that could take place during a music therapy session include singing, playing instruments, composing music, or listening to relaxing forms of music while meditating. At the close of a session, children may sing a goodbye song or adult patients could be asked to relay the events that took place during this time period.

Practical Use and Applications

This form of allied health care is recognized as a bona fide type of therapy in the United States. Many colleges offer degree programs in music therapy, and some states even afford therapists the opportunity to become licensed in the practice. The art of music therapy is well recognized among health care professionals, with many patients being referred to this healing practice by a specialist. Music therapy is also practiced throughout the world in areas such as the United Kingdom, Australia, and Africa. The cost of this treatment is often covered by medical insurance plans.

Where they are Located

Those who practice the art of music therapy can expect to work in a variety of locations. Some may work in private practice, in which case they are normally located in an office environment similar to that of a physical therapist. Others may be employed by schools, especially those that serve special needs children. Hospitals and mental health centers sometimes have these professionals on their full-time staff. They may also travel from one location to the next performing services in private residences or nursing homes.

Music therapy can be an ideal way to manage many conditions. Nearly anyone can benefit from this therapy, which makes it an excellent choice for those who are looking for a unique way to help themselves heal their own bodies.

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Music Therapy Summits 2012

Music therapy involves the use of music to address a variety of physical or emotional disorders. Summits are held from time to time, allowing those who work in this industry to perfect their skills or become introduced to new ideas. In 2012, many summits were held for the purpose of continuing education, which is often a requirement for many practitioners.

Online Conference for Music Therapy

An annual event, the Online Conference for Music Therapy is intended to provide continuing education credits to certified music therapists. In 2012, the event was held on February 18. Several keynote speakers gave instruction during the conference, and some of the topics that were covered included the use of an iPod in music therapy, children with special needs, and the importance of continuing education in music therapy.

Music Therapy Springsong 2012

Held at Katzman Lounge Vanier Hall on the campus of the University of Windsor, this Canadian music summit featured presentations by Christina Bell, Alison Moraites, and Jordan Sherman. All three of these participants are current students in the Music Therapy program of Windsor University. This summit took place on Thursday, March 29, 2012 from 7:30-9:00 pm. The event was free of charge and designed to give members of the public a feel for what music therapists can accomplish through their work.

Great Lakes Region Music Therapy Conference

This music therapy conference was held in Grand Rapids, Michigan on April 11 through 15, 2012. It took place at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel. During this summit, Grand Rapids native Ken Medema was the featured keynote speaker. Some of the topics discussed during this seminar included the changing educational needs for music therapists, best practices, and bedside guitar manner.

Asian Music and Creative Art Therapy Summit

This summit takes place in Bangkok, Thailand from June 27 through July 2, 2012. The participants in this summit are from various parts of the world including Israel, Japan, Vietnam, and the United States. Some of the topics that will be covered during this summit include the use of piano to help the elderly, and how to use music therapy to help cancer patients. The Asian Music and Creative Arts Therapy Summit is mostly instructional, with several keynote speakers on the program’s agenda.

American Music Therapy Association Conference

The American Music Therapy Association will hold their annual conference from Thursday, October 11 until Sunday October 14, 2012. This summit will take place in St. Charles, Illinois, which is a suburb of Chicago. During the four-day event, participants can take part in special training sessions, which include one devoted to drumming. Registration for this conference is open until July 11, 2012, and special rates for lodging can also be obtained for those who are attending.

Music therapists need to maintain continuing education, and attending conferences such as these is the preferred method of doing so. Since the world of music therapy is ever-evolving, music summits are the prime setting for experts in this field to share their knowledge with those who have a passion for healing through music.

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