About Music Therapy


What is music therapy?

Music therapy is a discipline in which credentialed professionals (MTA*) use music purposefully within therapeutic relationships to support development, health, and well-being. Music therapists use music safely and ethically to address human needs within cognitive, communicative, emotional, musical, physical, social, and spiritual domains.

*Music Therapist Accredited/Musicothérapeute accrédité


As defined by the Canadian Association of Music Therapists, June 2016

Examples of music therapy

The following are only a few of the many examples of possible goals, client populations, and interventions used within music therapy:

  • Developing language, communication, play, motor, and social skills (sharing, listening, turn taking, attention to task) with children through instrument play and musical exploration

  • Increasing self-esteem, self-awareness, and self-expression in adolescents with mental health challenges through songwriting and music education

  • Increasing social and communication skills and reducing anxiety with individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder through musical interventions

  • Increased socialization, self-expression, and quality of life with seniors in long term care through singing, instrument playing, listening, and discussion

  • Assisting with legacy work and life review, self-expression, processing emotions, decreasing pain, increasing relaxation with palliative patients through songwriting, listening, and/or relaxation exercises

Clinical process

Music therapists follow a clinical process when working with clients. The process begins with the music therapist assessing the client within the cognitive, communicative, emotional, musical, physical, social, and spiritual domains.

Based on the information gathered in the assessment, the music therapist then formulates goals and objectives specific to the client. The music therapist implements a treatment plan to reach the goals through specific interventions.   

After the client has participated in the treatment for a specified amount of time, the music therapist evaluates if the treatment has been effective in attaining the set goals. Depending on the findings, the goals and/or treatment plan may be modified.

The therapy process can be terminated under a variety or circumstances including when the client has achieved the set goals, when the client is discharged from the program/facility, or if the client is no longer benefiting from music therapy.

Throughout the clinical process, the music therapist documents the assessment, progress, observations, and recommendations regarding the client. The music therapist also has ongoing communication with the client and other interdisciplinary team members as appropriate throughout the clinical process.

Types of interventions

Music therapists use a variety of active and receptive types of interventions (depending on the preferences and abilities of the client). These techniques often include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • Singing

  • Playing instruments

  • Movement to music

  • Improvising

  • Listening

  • Lyric analysis and discussion

  • Songwriting

  • Imagery based experiences

Potential goals areas / benefits of music therapy

The goals and objectives addressed in music therapy are specific to each client. The following are a few examples of the many potential goal areas:

  • Improve communication skills

  • Increase self-esteem

  • Increase socialization

  • Participate in self-expression

  • Facilitate learning

  • Reduce pain

  • Increase relaxation

  • Regulate emotions

  • Process emotional issues

  • Decrease agitation

  • Manage anxiety

Who can benefit from music therapy?

Music therapy can be used with individuals of various ages, abilities, cultures, and musical backgrounds including but not limited to the following diagnoses and situations:

  • Acquired brain injury

  • AIDS

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder

  • Critical care

  • Developmental disabilities

  • Emotional traumas

  • Geriatric care

  • Hearing impairments

  • Mental health challenges

  • Neonatal care

  • Obstetrics

  • Oncology

  • Pain control

  • Palliative care

  • Personal growth

  • Physical disabilities

  • Speech and language impairments

  • Substance abuse

  • Teens at risk

  • Visual impairments

Where do music therapists work?

Music therapists work in a variety of clinical settings. The following are examples of where you could find a music therapist:

  • Hospitals

  • Day treatment programs

  • Community programs

  • Correctional centres

  • Long term care faciltiies

  • Substance abuse and addictions centres

  • Schools

  • Hospices

  • Private practice

What education and training do music therapists have?

Music therapists must attain the following requirements to become a MTA (music therapist accredited):

  • Complete a Bachelor of Music Therapy degree which includes academic study and clinical practicum placements

  • Complete a 1000-hour supervised clinical internship

  • Be a member in good standing with the Canadian Association of Music Therapists (CAMT)

  • Adhere to the CAMT Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics

  • Maintain their MTA credential through continuing education opportunities