Music Therapy/Therapist  Program Description


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dotMusic touches all our emotions. We often have the urge to put on a particular song or CD depending on our mood. This deep connection to music forms the basis for the study of music therapy.

Music therapy students can expect to take a wide range of courses. They include academic courses in related fields (psychology, special education, anatomy and physiology).

They will also take standard music coursework (such as music theory, music history, music conducting). This often includes applied music and ensemble work as well. Courses in the theory and techniques of music therapy are also required.

Stephen Williams is the coordinator of the bachelor of music therapy program at a four-year college. He says students in their third and fourth year can expect to take guitar, piano and voice lessons focusing on therapy and improvisation.

Many schools include clinical practica that give students experience in a place where they may eventually work.

Music therapists must be accomplished musicians first and foremost.

"Musical qualifications are as important as academic ones," says Colin Lee. He is the head of the music therapy department at a university. "[Students] must be prepared for the self-discipline and challenge of a college music major."

Alicia Clair is a professor at the University of Kansas. She agrees. "They must have excellent music skills and abilities. Ideally, they have had years of music lessons prior to application to the undergraduate degree program."

They must also have the insight and desire to work with people.

"We look for people that have open-mindedness, compassion and empathy when dealing with people who have problems," says Carol Pricket. She is a professor in the music therapy program at the University of Alabama. "They must also have integrity."

High school students should focus on courses in the humanities (psychology, English and social studies) and communication. Clair says that writing and speaking are important for all classes.

Naturally, there should also be a strong emphasis on music. "Take any music preparation, including music theory, sight-singing, piano and guitar when available," Pricket says.

One of the best things you can do to prepare for a career in music therapy is to do volunteer work at special education classes, nursing or residential care homes, pediatric wards, community service projects and summer camps. These experiences will develop your passion for helping people.


Occupational Outlook Handbook
For more information related to this field of study, see: Musicians, Singers and Related Workers

A Career in Music Therapy
From the American Music Therapy Association

Music Therapy on Wikipedia
A detailed look at the music therapy process and its history

Just the Facts

Want a quick overview of what this program is about? Check out Just the Facts for a simple description.