Music Therapist Career Profile

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What is a Music Therapist?

A music therapist is a therapist that uses music as a means of providing treatment for a patient. The way in which music is used depends on the patient. Possible music therapy treatments include learning to play a musical instrument, listening to music, learning to describe music and learning to write music and lyrics or both.

Musical Therapy Patients

There is no typical musical therapy patient.

Music therapists treat people with physical injuries, psychiatric and emotional problems, mental and physical retardation, speech and hearing disorders and much more. The treatment plan depends on the patient and their goals. Music therapy has especially become relevant to the treatment of patients with autism.

Music Therapy Jobs

Some musical therapists work in private practices, but much more are employed by hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes, daycares, schools and psychiatric facilities. It is common for music therapists to work in conjunction with a larger health care team when treating a patient. For instance, for a child with an emotional problem, the therapist would typically work with the patient's primary care doctor and psychologist/counselor to develop an individualized treatment plan.

How to Become a Musical Therapist

Becoming a music therapist requires a lot of education plus a certification exam.

You must either major in music therapy in college or complete an alternative major that includes classes deemed required by the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA). These classes include both music theory classes and psychology, biology and sociology classes.

After earning a bachelor's degree, you must complete an internship approved by the AMTA and finally take an exam administered by the Certification Board for Music Therapists (CBMT).

Although a bachelor's degree is all that is required to become certified, the AMTA encourages prospective therapists to go on to an approved master's or Ph.D. program. The more advanced the degree you receive, the more employment opportunities and better pay you will receive.

Find out about AMTA approved educational and internship opportunities, as well as the certification exam, on the AMTA website.