Mom smiling with toddler boy with Down Syndrome smiling and clapping on her lapMusic is a powerful way to connect people. Did you know that it also helps people of all ages achieve their personal goals every day? I first heard about music therapy from a teacher at my summer arts camp. I mentioned that I wanted to be a music teacher because I wanted to help people with music. She asked me, “Have you heard of music therapy?” At that moment, I knew exactly what I wanted to do for my life’s work.


Music was a healing force long before music therapy was a defined field. Going back to the days of David playing his harp for Saul, music can heal, soothe, connect, comfort and excite people all around the world. Beginning after World Wars I and II, musicians visited hospitals to bring music to the veterans. It was there that the future of music therapy began. Formal college programs started to train music therapists to meet the increasing needs of the returning war veterans in the 1940’s. As Ronna Kaplan noted, “Doctors and nurses noticed patients’ positive and emotional responses to music” (Kaplan, 2011). To learn more about the history of music therapy, visit the American Music Therapy Association

And Today

There are over 6,000 music therapists certified by the Certification Board for Music Therapists. Today, Board Certified Music Therapists (MT-BC) around the country work with a variety of people, including:

• Mothers preparing for childbirth and in labor and delivery
• Infants in NICU
• Young children
• Children and adults with disabilities
• Children and adults with mental health needs
• Adults looking for increased insight and social connections
• Older adults to increase health and wellness
• Elders with Alzheimer’s, dementia or other age related conditions
• Individuals of all ages at the end of life

Music Therapy…
Gives children with special needs fun ways to develop their skills in a creative space
Supports adults with disabilities by using music as a way to connect to others in formal and informal ways
Invites older adults to participate and share in meaningful verbal and non-verbal music making
Where can I find a music therapist?

Board Certified Music Therapists can be found working in
• Public and private schools
• Hospitals
• Long term care and skilled nursing facilities
• Assisted living facilities
• Music therapy clinics
• In-patient and out-patient mental health centers
• Hospice programs
• Community centers
• Recreation programs
• Early intervention and 0-3 programs
• Children’s library programs

Music is not one size fits all!

You can’t just hit play on a CD player or an ipod and enjoy the effects of music therapy. Music therapy demands responses from a music therapist. He or she must carefully choose the music and instruments in the moment to help meet the person’s goals. Music therapy uses music to increase connections, develop new skills and reach one’s full potential.

The music and instruments change because of the people involved. Everything is adapted to meet the client’s needs. No matter what the music sounds like, music therapists use music to work towards very specific goals.

What are the Benefits of Music Therapy?
Music therapy creates new conversations and can help people connect without the need for words. Music therapy can help many people from young to old, by:
• Enhancing quality of life
• Developing new skills
• Reducing stress or loneliness
• Encouraging teamwork and new solutions
Clive Robbins, a leader in the music therapy field once said, “Almost all children respond to music. Music is an open-sesame, and if you can use it carefully and appropriately, you can reach into that child’s potential for development.” Although he worked mostly with children, as a music therapist, I can truthfully say that music serves as an open sesame for all people.

When used thoughtfully and with an understanding and commitment to personal growth, music can transform lives. Music develops early childhood skills, and helps people transition at the end of life. Either way, music opens doors to new understandings, new solutions and personal development.

For more information, visit
The American Music Therapy Association
The Certification Board for Music Therapists

What Is Music Therapy? Ronna Kaplan, M.A. (n.d.). Retrieved October 11, 2014, from
American Music Therapy Association, American Music Therapy Association (AMTA). (n.d.). Retrieved October 11, 2014, from