Written by Perrin Jones
Music therapy is an exciting and growing field, with over 7,000 board-certified music therapists in the United States. As a professional in this field, we are inundated with opportunities for advocacy and debunking some common myths about the music therapy profession. Following are three common myths about the music therapy field, debunked:
Myth #1: Music therapy involves just listening to music.
Fact: Though music therapy is sometimes receptive in nature, a typical music therapy session is much more active and participatory! Rather than relying on recorded music, music therapists, who are proficient on instruments including piano, guitar, and their voices, typically use live music of clients’ preferred genres to help clients achieve functional goals in physical, cognitive, socioemotional, and behavioral domains. Clients of all ages engage in instrument play, singing, and songwriting and cognitive tasks in typical sessions.
Myth #2: Music therapists only work with children.
Fact: Music therapy is a field that serves individuals “from the womb to the tomb.” Music therapists are present in childbirth and Neonatal Intensive Care Unit settings all they way up to older adults with memory care needs and in hospice care. Of course, music therapists also serve children, teens, and adults in between with a variety of needs including: developmental disabilities, physical disabilities, mental health needs, traumatic brain injuries, hospitalizations, language needs, and so much more! Music therapists can also be found working in a variety of settings including: schools, rehabilitation and treatment facilities, hospitals, private practices, nonprofits, residential care facilities, and nursing homes, to name a few.
Myth #3: Music therapy is the same as music lessons.
Fact: Music therapy differs from music lessons and music classes because of the music therapist’s credentials and intent for the session. Music therapists receive a Bachelors degree in music therapy in addition to completing a 1,200 clinical hour internship at minimum prior to taking the board-certification. Whereas the goals of music lessons and classes are typically to learn musical skills, music therapy goals for individual clients or groups are always functional. For example, if a music therapist is working with a young client on the Autism Spectrum on playing by color on the piano, his or her goal for the client may be increasing fine motor or attention skills rather than having the client learn a song or scale on the piano.
Have you noticed some other common myths about music therapy or have any questions? Let us know!