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What Does a Music Therapist Do?

written by: Bruce Tyson•edited by: Linda Richter•updated: 12/13/2010

The expression referring to good news, "That's music to my ears," tacitly acknowledges the correlation between music and mood. The knowledge of the therapeutic benefits of music has given way to an exciting career field. The answer to the question, "What does a music therapist do?" is answered here.

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    Music Therapy

    Scientists have proved that music has certain medicinal effects that can facilitate healing, relieve stress, manage pain, improve mood,Guitar  and address a variety of mental health issues. Music has also been utilized as a learning aid and a medium that promotes communication skills. Music therapy is the structured use of music to address the wide range of personal ills and deficiencies that music can address.

    Although the positive effects of music on the human psyche has been understood since the Biblical Old Testament times of Israel's King Saul, the congealment of music therapy into a professional clinical field was not until the twentieth century when the United States Veterans Administration began using music to treat soldiers returning from fighting in the World Wars. These situations helped American physicians and scientists pioneer techniques that use music to relieve pain.

    Therapeutic professionals formed a professional association in the 1950s that helped organize the field while extending it to include mental health patients. From that early association, two leading music therapy professional organizations developed and eventually merged in the late 20th century to form the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA).

    What does a music therapist do? Eyebrows likely rise when people meet music therapy professionals because of the relative obscurity of the profession. Still, thousands of music therapists are at work in the United States and around the world, helping thousands of patients find relief from pain, peace of mind, and improved personal development. Music therapy has also been used as an effective treatment for autism.

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    What Does a Music Therapist Do?

    All aspects of music are at the disposal of the professional music therapist for the development of individualized treatment plans. Creating music, writing music, discussion of music, and listening to music are all potential components of a music therapy program.

    Depending on the age of a client and the nature of client ailments, a music therapist will guide the client into appropriate interaction with music. For example, a regimen of music improvisation might be prescribed to someone with problems with stress.

    Using music as an outlet can help a person learn to channel dangerous levels of stress out of the body to improve physical and mental health. In fact, studies have shown that some depressed patients have responded favorably to music therapy.

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    What Does a Music Therapist do? The Dark Side of Music Therapy

    Like most things, music therapy can be used to hurt people rather than to help them. One example of this dates back to the end of 1989 when the United States used music therapy (some called it music torture) by playing music by Barry Manilow and other recording artists to help flush Manuel Noriega out of the church he was holed up in trying to avoid capture on drug trafficking charges.

    Also, some rumors and reports suggest that harsh music therapy was employed against terror suspects detained at the famous American prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

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    Consider Music Therapy for Treatment or a Career

    Anyone having persistent problems with pain, stress, and other wellness issues should consider giving music therapy a chance. For those seeking a career, music therapy can prove to be a fascinating and fulfilling way to earn a living while helping others live better lives.