About Music Therapy

Using the Power of Music to Heal is a Tradition Going Back Centuries

As defined by the American Music Therapy Association, music therapy is the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program. Music therapy is an established health profession in which music is used within a therapeutic relationship to address physical, emotional, cognitive and social needs of individuals. For more information, visit the American Music Therapy Association website.

History of Music Therapy

Music therapy in the U.S. began in the late 18th century. However, using music as a healing medium dates back to ancient times. This is evident in biblical scriptures and historical writings of ancient civilizations such as Egypt, China, India, Greece and Rome. Today, the power of music remains the same, but music is used much differently than it was in ancient times.

The profession of music therapy in the U.S. began to develop during World War I and World War II, when music was used in Veterans Administration hospitals as an intervention to address traumatic war injuries. Veterans actively and passively engaged in music interventions that focused on relieving pain perception. Numerous doctors and nurses witnessed the effect music had on veterans' psychological, physiological, cognitive and emotional state. Since then, colleges and universities developed programs to train musicians how to use music for therapeutic purposes. In 1950, a professional organization was formed by a collaboration of music therapists that worked with veterans, persons with intellectual disabilities, persons with visual/hearing impairments, and psychiatric populations. This was the birth of the National Association for Music Therapy (NAMT). In 1998, NAMT joined forces with another music therapy organization to become what is now known as the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA).

Training of Music Therapists

The American Music Therapy Association has specific curriculum requirements including courses in research analysis, physiology, acoustics, psychology, and music and therapy. Currently there are 75 undergraduate and 37 graduate programs across the nation approved by the association. Upon completing the academic program at either the bachelor’s or master’s level, a six-month internship is required at an AMTA approved clinical training site. Graduates must subsequently pass a comprehensive examination administered by an independent certifying body, the Certification Board for Music Therapists (CBMT), to earn the MT-BC credential which needs to be maintained by taking 100 continuing education hours in music therapy and in related fields every five years. Currently there are about 7,000 board certified music therapists in North America.

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