Music Therapy

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Music Therapy

Music Therapy

Thesis Statement

Music affects people emotionally, physically, and aesthetically, and these responses provide the basis for the use of music in therapy.


Music is such an important part of life that some find it difficult to imagine what the world would be like without it. Music is a part of many social activities and is present in much of our environment. People may use music to communicate with others and often respond emotionally to music. Music has been a part of all cultures, and people report listening to music more than any other activity over a wide variety of contexts.(Austin, 2006)

Emotional responses may include nostalgia at hearing a song, sadness evoked by a piece of music, or joy and exhilaration while dancing to music. Music influences physiological responses such as changes in heart rate, electrical skin conductance, and breathing, and it also affects physical and brain responses. Aesthetic responses reflect one's experience of the beauty and art of music.(Wilson, 2002)

Music and healing have been tied together throughout history. Shamans have used music in healing since primitive times. The Greek philosophers Plato and Aristotle wrote of how to use music to affect health and behavior, and music continued to be tied to healing throughout the middle Ages and later. Music has been used to treat physical and mental problems in the United States for the last century and a half.(Bonny, 2002)


Formal music therapy in the United States stems from the period during World War II, when musicians played their instruments for veterans with physical and emotional trauma in Veterans Health Administration hospitals. Their music often had a positive effect on the hospitalized veterans, and the medical personnel began to request that hospitals hire the musicians.(Bonny, 2002) It became clear that the hospital musicians needed some training before working in the facilities, and the demand grew for a college curriculum. The first music therapy degree program in the world began in 1944, followed by the first music therapy association in 1950. The American Music Therapy Association (AMTA), the current U.S. association, was founded in 1998 through the unification of older music therapy organizations.(Gold, 2005)

AMTA establishes standards and oversees music therapy education and training in the United States. Music therapy training is offered at the bachelor's level or higher at over 70 educational institutions approved to offer music therapy degrees. Bachelor's level training leads to entry level competencies in musical, clinical, and music therapy foundations and principles; these are acquired through academic cour se work and 1200 hours of clinical training that includes a supervised internship.(Dileo, 2005) Many universities offer masters and doctoral degrees in music therapy. Music therapists also may obtain graduate degrees in music therapy or a related field such as special education, social work, or gerontology. The Certification Board for Music Therapists (CBMT) establishes competencies for music therapists to become Board Certified Music Therapists (MT-BC), the credential necessary to practice music therapy, and requires continuing education to ensure that music therapists' skills are up to ...
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