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Mommy & Me Music Therapy session


Simply put, music therapy is the use of music to reach non-musical goals.

Within a therapeutic relationship, a client is assessed, treated, and evaluated using music interventions. Below are some common questions about music therapy, how it originated, and what a music therapy session might look like.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where did music therapy originate?

Music as a form of healing dates back to the great thinkers and philosophers Plato and Aristotle and even Biblical texts. However, music therapists began their formal practice while working with veterans of WWI and WWII. Their skills in treating both physical and emotional needs were so valued that it sparked the need for more formal education and training, as well as writings on the therapeutic value of music. Early references included a 1789 article in Columbian Magazine, "Music Physically Considered" and two medical dissertations (1804 and 1806) from medical students of Ben Rush, Edwin Atlee and Samuel Matthews.


Several associations were formed later on in the early 1900s. These associations included The National Society of Musical Therapeutics (Eva Augusta Vescelius, 1903), the National Association for Music in Hospitals (Isa Maud Ilsen, 1926), and the National Foundation of Music Therapy (Harriet Ayer Seymour, 1941). Though these associations developed education and articles in support of music therapy, the associations did not develop music therapy as a clinical practice. 


In the 1940s, the first music therapy college programs were established at Michigan State University, University of Kansas, Chicago Musical College, College of the Pacific, and Alverno College. The profession was also supported by leading professionals in varying fields including psychiatrist and music therapist Ira Altshuler, Willem van de Wall, and E. Thayer Gaston, known as the "father of music therapy".


In 1950, the National Association for Music Therapy was founded in New York City and functioned successfully for forty-seven years. This new association created the groundwork for a later association in 1971 (American Association for Music Therapy) and the current music therapy association (American Music Therapy Association, 1998) that music therapists work under today, promoting education, publishing research, and establishing the needed requirements needed to provide services.


To ensure the competency and credibility of practicing music therapists, the Certification Board for Music Therapists (CBMT) was established in 1983, requiring music therapy students to pass a board certification exam before legally practicing. Today, music therapy students take the board-certified exam before receiving the credentials, MT-BC. currently, over 7,000 hold the credentials.

What are the qualifications of a music therapist?

To become a board-certified music therapist, one must complete a bachelor's degree (or higher) in music therapy from one of the 72 colleges approved by the American Music Therapy Association. Such programs include a variety of courses in psychology, physiology, music foundations, and music therapy. The degree also included 1200 hours of clinical training. After schooling, one may sit for the music therapy board exam. If the exam is passed, the credentials MT-BC, Music Therapist Board Certified, are awarded to the, now professional music therapist by the Certification Board for Music Therapists. Every MT-BC must be recertified every five years by submitting 100 recertification points earned from completing various educational courses, participating in professional development, training young professionals, or providing services and training about music therapy services. 

What goals and objectives might be addressed in a music therapy session, and how are they addressed?

Determining goals and objectives to be addressed during music therapy is a vital part to the overall music therapy treatment process. Goals and objectives are individualized to each client. Goals indicate the general desired outcomes of treatment. Goals are broad and examples include improving speech clarity, increasing sitting balance, decreasing harmful behaviors, increasing self-expression, improving fine motor movement, or decreasing pain. Objectives are time-related and quantifiable steps which measure client progress, indicating whether a goal has been met or not. Objectives could include increasing scores on the Montreal Cognitive Assessment, improving the frequency of correctly articulated bilabial consonants, decreasing the number of times a child gets out of their seat, increasing the number of independent shoulder flexions, decreasing self-reported pain on a visual analog scale, increasing the number of steps one can walk independently, or increasing the frequency of positive affirmation statements. 


Music therapy addresses non-musical goals and objectives using music interventions. Interventions are not prescriptive and the use of interventions varies from client to client. Music therapy interventions might include music-assisted relaxation, songwriting, active music making, movement to music, singing and respiratory exercises, gait training paired with an auditory stimulus, lyric analysis, imaginative play or a wide range of other music therapy interventions! 

How does music bring about positive change?

Almost every person in any culture has some relationship to music. Music is a non-invasive and motivating stimulus, reward, hobby, and treatment.


Current research in neuroscience indicates that music activates both the right and the left sides of the brain.  It is suggested that one of the reasons music brings about positive change is its ability to rewire damaged neural pathways. Studies report that music therapy interventions have helped to improve gait, motor, speech, and cognitive functioning in those that have experienced damage to the brain.


Music is motivating. This is why many of us put in our headphones before we go on that dreaded run! The qualities of music, the rhythm, dynamics, and style can get our blood pumping or our heartrate back to it's resting rate. Simply put, music influences of physiological functioning. 

Music is rewarding. Whether you get to listen to your favorite song or get to plan a neat drum, using music as a contingency is effective in the therapy setting. Because music therapy can be a passive or active pleasurable experience, many are motivated to engage in music therapy interventions. 

Music is a carrier of information. Music can carry emotions, directions, a story, or rhythmic cues in order to promote positive change. 


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