Music therapy is a type of treatment in which a music therapist uses music to improve the health of a patient. Patients with physical or mental disabilities are two types of patients who may benefit from music therapy treatment. The elderly, those who have been hospitalized because of drug abuse, and those with communication problems may also find this particular type of therapy beneficial. In order to become a music therapist, a person must complete a bachelor's degree in music therapy from an accredited college or university.
Courses the student must take include classes in general studies, music, and music therapy. The student will study music history, composition, piano, voice, and other general music classes. He or she will also be expected to undertake various courses devoted to the use of music to improve or maintain patients' health.
After earning a degree in music therapy, a person who wishes to become a music therapist must complete an internship that consists of about 1,040 supervised clinical hours. Following completion of a successful internship, the future therapist must pass a national examination administered by the certification Board for Music Therapist (CBMT). Some students may choose to pursue a master's degree in music therapy, which involves approximately 30 hours beyond a bachelor's degree. The graduate degree in music therapy usually requires two years of additional study.
If a person decides to become a music therapist, he or she will lead patients in a variety of activities that relate to music. For example, the therapist will help patients improvise, re-create, compose, and listen to music. The music therapist will encourage patients to make up their own songs on the spur of the moment.
When the therapist asks patients to re-create music, patients will sing or play music that has already been composed. Patients may participate in the music sessions together, singing and playing instruments as a group. The music therapist may even help patients write their own music, allowing them to express their feelings as they create their own songs or musical recordings.
Some treatments may include listening to pre-recorded music from a variety of genres in order to develop relaxation techniques or explore with physical movement. Patients may have the opportunity to create art or tell a story that was inspired by listening to the music. They may talk about the music they have heard, discussing their feelings and emotions during the process.
If a person wishes to become a music therapist, he or she should be a deeply musical person who appreciates the power of music and how it can be used to maintain and improve health. This health professional must also have the desire to learn to play both the guitar and piano; these instruments are frequently used in music therapy sessions. A potential therapist must be physically and emotionally healthy, able to deal with patients who have physical, mental, and emotional problems. The music therapist should have deep empathy for others and have the ability to relate to patients who display a variety of needs.