Careers in Music Therapy
What is music therapy?
A career in music therapy offers challenge, opportunity, and distinctive rewards to those interested in working with people of all ages with various disabilities. Music therapists are employed in many different settings, including general and psychiatric hospitals, community mental health agencies, rehabilitation centers, day care facilities, nursing homes, schools, and private practice. Music therapists provide services for adults and children with psychiatric disorders, mental retardation and developmental disabilities, speech and hearing impairments, physical disabilities, and neurological impairments, among others. Music therapists are usually members of an interdisciplinary team that supports the goals and objectives for each client within the context of the music therapy setting.
Is music therapy a good career possibility for me?
A music therapist should have a genuine interest in people and a desire to help others empower themselves. The essence of music therapy practice involves establishing caring and professional relationships with people of all ages and abilities. Empathy, patience, creativity, imagination, an openness to new ideas, and understanding of oneself are also important attributes. Because music therapists are musicians as well as therapists, a background in and love of music are also essential. Individuals considering a career in music therapy are advised to gain experience through volunteer opportunities or summer work in nursing homes, camps for children with disabilities, and other settings that serve the needs of people with disabilities.
What career opportunities are available for music therapists?
Opportunities for employment are available to the registered music therapist, not only in traditional clinical settings, such as agencies serving individuals with emotional, developmental, or physical disabilities, but in new and expanding areas of health care delivery. For example, music therapists are now employed in hospice care, substance abuse programs, oncology treatment centers, pain/stress management clinics, and correctional settings. Additionally, many music therapists work in special education settings, where they provide either direct services to students with disabilities or function as consultants for music educators and special educators. A recent hearing before the U.S. Senate's Special Committee on Aging and the subsequent passage of the Older Americans Act of 1992 have increased the recognition of music therapy's value, as well as employment opportunities.
“The fundamental aspect of being a music therapist is to let go of ego and be able to support individual needs of the populations one is helping.”
- Krystal Demaine, PhD MT-BC
Where do music therapists work?
- Inpatient psychiatric unit
- Private practice
- Intermediate care facility/mental retardation
- Nursing home
- State institution
- Geriatric facility
- Community mental health center
- Inpatient medical unit
- Drug/alcohol program
- Group home
- Outpatient clinic
- Correctional facility