What is Music Therapy

In order to understand what music therapy is, I will be posting several articles, research studies, and information on various topics that are relevant to this field. This month, I will be starting at the beginning when a person decides they want music therapy for themselves or loved one.

One might be asking themselves, “what happens when a person first starts music therapy?” Initially, it’s important that an individual, or group of people are assessed. Often times those being assessed don’t know that they are being assessed by the Music Therapist. However, it’s important to remember that for whatever reason a person(s) is going to participate in a music therapy experience, the music therapist leading the session needs to be able to meet that person or group of persons at their level so they can connect with that person.

In order to do that, and to prepare appropriate goals and objectives, they must first assess the ability, strengths, and weaknesses of the person(s) in the music therapy session. Below is more information on what an assessment is all about.

Also I have attached an article to the left that is just one example of the use of the assessment process with children with Autism that have communication disorders. (See A Method of Music Therapy Assessment for Diagnosis of Autism and Communication Disorders in Children by Tony Wigram from the Journal, Music Therapy Perspectives (2000), Vol 18, Pages 13-22


When assessing a client, the goal of the music therapist is to seek as much background information about the client as possible in both musical and nonmusical areas in order to design an effective music therapy treatment program. This can be achieved in several ways: by reviewing the client’s developmental, personal, social, and medical history; interviewing the client or client’s family members, caregivers or guardians; observing the client in various situations; discussing the client’s needs with other members of the treatment team; and engaging or observing the client participating in music experiences that give some indication of the client’s responses to and preferences for various types of music experiences and music materials as well as the client’s level of motor, social, auditory, communication, and musical skills.

In addition, a music therapist will also assess a client’s specific response, interaction, skills, and preferences with regard to music and the types of modality, media, activity, instruments, idioms, styles, moods, quality available in music experiences, and the appropriate level in which the client has already developed their musical abilities.

The gathering of this information is essential prior to starting treatment because it gives a broad overview of the client’s level of functioning, it identifies the client’s individual strengths and weaknesses as well as the client’s problems or areas of need and helps provide direction for treatment and recommended services or treatment modalities.

This information is important due to the impact it has on the other stages of the music therapy treatment process; if the music therapist does not have this information, he/she cannot effectively set goals and objectives, plan intervention strategies to help the client reach their goals, or implement effective treatment procedures.