What Does A Musical Therapist Do

By David Krug David Krug is the CEO & President of Bankovia. He's a lifelong expat who has lived in the Philippines, Mexico, Thailand, and Colombia. When he's not reading about cryptocurrencies, he's researching the latest personal finance software. 3 minute read

Even if you’re just singing along to your favorite song or listening to a calming instrumental soundtrack to help you focus, it’s widely accepted that listening to music can improve your mood. As a form of complementary treatment for patients coping with physical or mental health issues, music therapy takes this reality a step further. Musical therapy is more than just playing a song that you like in a room full of people. The therapist’s ultimate goal is to create music-based therapeutic interventions that are tailored to the specific needs of each client.

Types of Music Therapy Activities

Activities used in music therapy can be as hands-on as improvised self-expression through the use of musical instruments or as simple as listening to soothing music, depending on the needs of the client. Even learning to play an instrument can be part of the therapeutic interventions used in music therapy. It’s not just about teaching music or singing lessons, though. In order to alleviate the symptoms of mental and physical health problems and achieve treatment objectives, every music therapy activity is specifically designed by the music therapist.

Patients’ physical and mental abilities as well as their comfort level with musical expression all play a role in what activities they engage in during a music therapy session.

The Music Therapist’s Purpose

Individuals who are not trained in the art of music may be surprised to learn that making music can be a source of emotional satisfaction for them. Musical self-expression is a part of the job of a music therapist, even if the client has never learned to read music or play an instrument. These activities and experiences must have a specific purpose if music therapists are to fulfill their role effectively. Music therapy can be enjoyable, but the goal is more than just entertainment or a temporary diversion. Music therapy can be used for a variety of purposes, including helping patients control their impulses, improving their self-esteem and cognitive abilities, adapting to difficult life changes, or finding non-pharmacological ways to alleviate anxiety and pain.

In spite of the importance placed on music, a music therapist’s primary concern is with the client and what he or she needs, not with the music itself. The ability to communicate effectively with the client is essential to building a relationship, determining appropriate treatment plans, and helping the client see progress and results. As a result, until you have a clear understanding of the client’s feelings and concerns, you can only guess what activities will be most effective.

Personal treatment plans can only be created by developing rapport with each client, asking probing questions, and paying close attention to the answers that come up during the course of the therapeutic process. Client responses to musical experiences you facilitate are monitored and documented in evaluations, case summaries, progress notes, and adjustments to the treatment plan throughout your time with the client.

Singing or playing an instrument yourself or teaching the client the basics so they can do it themselves are both excellent ways to fulfill your role as a provider of musical experiences.

Becoming a Music Therapist Trainee

Training in both musical performance and therapeutic interventions is required for those who want to work as a music therapist in the clinical setting. A degree in music or psychology isn’t enough to get a job in the music industry. According to the American Music Therapy Association, an accredited music therapy bachelor’s degree program offers the best of both worlds: 45 percent of the curriculum is devoted to music theory, 15 percent is devoted to clinical foundations, and another 15 percent is devoted to specialized music therapy classes. The biological, behavioral, and social sciences are all included in these programs to round out the curriculum.

In order to graduate with a degree in music therapy, you’ll need to complete several clinical rotations. To use the mandatory designation of Music Therapist-Board Certified (MT-BC), you must pass a national certification exam after completing your degree.

There are two distinct types of music therapists: those who have a bachelor’s degree in music therapy, and those who have a master’s degree in music therapy.

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