Music Therapy – What is it and what can it do?

Music Therapy – What is it and what can it do?

Grandfather playing guitar to his daughter and grandchildren outdoors. romantic portrait of three generations with the guitar.


Music Therapy – What is it and what can it do?

Music therapy is the clinical and evidenced-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.”

The American Music Therapy Association

Music has a unique way of touching people’s lives in various ways. Board certified music therapists channel this attainable power in a therapeutic environment to help individuals of any age or disability to reach their potential. Structure, security, safety, and the sense of self can be obtained through the natural musical elements of tempo, timbre, vibration, and acoustical essence. Using these tools, any of the senses can be accessed in order to promote healing and support of the innermost need of an individual whether it is physical, intellectual, spiritual, emotional, or psychological.

Music therapy interventions can be designed to:

  • Promote wellness
  • Manage stress
  • Alleviate pain
  • Express feelings
  • Enhance memory
  • Improve communication
  • Promote physical rehabilitation
  • Manage anxiety
  • Stimulate cognitive functioning

Music therapy is used in a variety of settings: within the medical field, social skills groups, individual therapy, family support services, educational settings such as special education classes, at risk adolescent groups, geriatric rehabilitation, addiction recovery groups, bereavement groups, within the home, within children’s groups, mental health facilities, correctional and forensic facilities, and many other community settings.

What does music therapy look like in a hospice setting?

Within a hospice setting, music therapy is designed to provide comfort and improve the quality of life for loved ones in the last stages of life. Music therapists collaborate with an interdisciplinary team consisting of doctors, nurses, case workers, social workers, chaplains, massage therapists, and families to discuss options for the needs of the patient. Music therapy services include:

  • Pain management
  • Anxiety management
  • Breath support
  • Provide companionship
  • Provide comfort
  • Process emotions: anger, sadness, grief, fear, sorrow, crying spells
  • Comfort for depression
  • Stress management
  • Aid in relaxation
  • Provide cognitive stimulation
  • Aid in coping with the end of life

Music therapy … more than just singing.

Within hospice, music therapy is not used to hasten or prolong life. Music therapy is not only for the better days, it is also for the rough days. A music therapist uses a variety of musical interactions to care for the person and honors their wishes for palliative care. A music therapist is creative to meet the needs of the individual. Some interactions may include instrument playing, sing-a-longs, song writing, lyric analysis, fill-in-the-blank, relaxation strategies, use of scarves for tactile and visual stimulus, compiling a CD of favorite songs for a life reflection, music induced reminiscence, musical familial interactions, and music listening.

Qualifications of a music therapist:

A music therapist has completed a four year academic program approved through the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA) plus at least 1,040 hours of supervised clinical internship experience.  Studies include, general music, music therapy, psychology, and anatomy.  In order to practice music therapy, a therapist must pass the national board certification exam and become board certified earning the title MT-BC (Music Therapist Board Certified).  Within the state of Utah, certification is available with the title SCMT (State Certified Music Therapist).  With these certifications, a music therapist is qualified to use music in a prescribed manner within a therapeutic setting.  Great caution is used to appropriately use music in a safe and positive manner with clients of all ages and abilities.

For more information about music therapy, visit

Ideas compliments of Aspire Home Health & Hospice. Call 877-411-0171 or visit

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