How to Become a Music Therapist

Music therapy is a growing industry that is often used for rehabilitation centers, the elderly and the disabled. Music is a universal language that can be used to reach those that can otherwise seem unreachable. Music therapists are highly trained and usually well-educated.

What Is a Music Therapist?

A music therapist works closely with many health professionals to adequately address the needs of patients that are seeking stimulus. Music can be used to calm and relax patients that are unduly stressed, stimulate disengaged patients such as those on the autism spectrum or help patients through creative means. Music therapy is used in a multitude of facilities, though some therapists also work individually with their own clients.

A music therapist usually needs to be well-educated. Due to the unique nature of this profession, not all colleges and universities will offer the training necessary for a music therapist. Therapists should be driven individuals who truly enjoy helping others and can connect with others easily.

What Does a Music Therapist Do?

Bachelor's Degree
Find Related CareersSOURCE: US Bureau of Labor Statistics
A music therapist will work in a wide variety of institutions. Elder care facilities, psychiatric facilities, day are centers and community centers are all institutions that could take advantage of the unique benefits of music therapy. A musical therapist may bring their own equipment or may use the equipment available to them at the institution. Since music is very broad and the treatments are diverse, there are different types of musical therapy treatments that could be offered.

Music therapy can include listening to music, dancing, singing or even creating new music with the use of simple instruments. The type of therapy suggested will be based on the treatment that is necessary. Those that are regaining brain function or seeking creative outlet may use a piano to help. Those that need to be calmed or need to find a connection to others might listen to soothing music they enjoy.

How Do You Become a Music Therapist?

Becoming a music therapist usually requires a degree and certification by a board such as the Certification Board for Music Therapists. Music therapists need to be trained in their responsibilities as well as the boundaries between therapist and client. The music therapy industry is bound by many of the same regulations that other counseling and therapy industries are. Once certified a music therapist will usually get hired by an institution such as a mental health care facility.

Those that are interested in working on their own can build up a client base. However, this is usually more challenging for a music therapist than for other types of therapy. Music therapists are more in demand in institutions now than they were in the past as the elderly population is growing and alternative therapy treatment techniques are often being experimented with.

How Do You Advance as a Music Therapist?

A music therapist can advance by building private clientele or by developing their reputation further. Music therapists can also acquire additional training and education to become a general counselor or even a psychologist. Those that are more interested in music can become music instructors or professors of music with additional education, experience and training.

Those that are interested in other branches of therapy can also consider becoming a recreational therapist. The education and work for this type of therapy is very similar. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a recreational therapist would need to be certified by the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification, similar to music therapists. Music therapists have many opportunities for growth in both the fields of music and counseling.

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