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What is Music Therapy and How Do I Find a Qualified Music Therapist?

What is Music Therapy and How Do You Find a Qualified Music Therapist?

As a music therapist, I am constantly being asked the question, “What is Music Therapy?” This might occur at a professional event, social event or even chatting with someone in line at the post office. If I just gave the following answer, most people would still be confused: “Music Therapy is a research based health care profession that uses music to help clients reach their therapeutic goals.”

Hang on! What exactly does that mean? Let’s break it down.

  • “Researched based” points to the fact that empirical research on the effectiveness of music therapy is being done at many universities throughout the world.

  • “Health care profession” means that music therapy is akin to such fields as physical therapy, speech therapy, or occupational therapy.

  • “Uses music to help clients reach their therapeutic goals” means that music therapists are helping clients work on traditional therapeutic goals that might typically be found on an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or an

Individualized Transition Plan (ITP). For example, a music therapist working with a child with Down syndrome might be addressing a speech therapy goal of improved articulation. The music therapist can use custom written songs that have many of the words or sounds that the child is struggling with. The child then gets to have fun singing the song and practicing that sound or word many times. With music therapy, you can get the repetition without the monotony!

There are so many more examples to give that illustrate how music therapy is used with the special needs community. To name just a few, music therapists work on social skills through group music therapy sessions that use specific songs to encourage greetings, eye contact, sharing, turn taking, etc. Music therapists work on gross and fine motor skills through music and movement activities, and through instrument play. Behavioral goals might be addressed through the use of musical social stories. Routines can be put to music so that they are more easily memorized. Academic and personal information can also be put to music to improve recall. Every person with special needs is unique and thus the interventions and goals that music therapists address are equally unique.

If you are interested in learning more about music therapy and how you can use music to help children with special needs, please sign up for my free newsletter full of great tips and ideas at You can also visit my free video blog at Here, I show you video clips of my work and discuss strategies, tools and resources that you can incorporate into a home program. I also have developed a DVD and music package that gives you all of the tools to incorporate the joy, bonding and learning that can come through music. That is available at

If you are looking for a music therapist in your area, you can search the American Music Therapy Association’s “Find a therapist” page at, or the Certification Board For Music Therapist’s “Music therapist search” at

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