If music be the food of well-being, play on! This could well be the best description of music therapy – the art of using the power of music to promote physical and psychological well-being. Music therapists work with a range of patients to improve their quality of life and guide personal growth. This is a relatively recent field; since its inception, music therapy has been a boon for thousands of patients, helping them to overcome all manner of physical, mental, and emotional obstacles. If you love music and have a desire to help people, music therapy can prove to an extremely rewarding career. Music therapists are required to be patient, empathetic, and musically proficiency. As a music therapist, you could work with patients – young and old – in a variety of settings, such as foster care facilities, mental health centers, rehabilitation clinics, prisons, and camps for kids with special needs.
Music therapy is making inroads into new areas each day. For instance, a recent study showed the positive effects of music for patients who are being treated for cancer. The group of patients, aged between five and sixty-five years, would meet twice a week for musical sessions, which included listening to music, writing and singing songs, playing instruments, or simply chatting about music they loved. These patients reported significantly less nausea and pain as compared to patients who did not participate in music therapy. In addition, the therapy might even speed up the time it takes for the new marrow to take hold in patients and start producing blood cells, which is a crucial component of recovery. Apart from this, music therapy is used in various other medical environments, such as in the case of terminally ill patients wherein it can help to cope with pain and sadness.
To formally practice as a music therapist, you will also have to complete the required education. As per the American Music Therapy Association, aspiring music therapists must complete a bachelor’s degree in music therapy or music education with a focus on music therapy. You will also have to complete 1,200 hours of clinical training, which will comprise a supervised internship and practical experience. Coursework will consist of musical theory and practice along with psychology, anatomy, social science, and behavioral science. Graduates must obtain the MT-BC (Music Therapist – Board Certified) credential before starting work. If you want to focus on research or teaching, a master’s degree is highly desirable as it will enable you to advance your skills and focus on a specific area. For those who want to obtain a music degree, there are a number of top schools in the US. The New England Conservatory offers strong undergraduate and graduate programs with one-on-one studio instruction, while Jacksonville University provides the opportunity for students to star in a musical, produce and record albums in a studio. Other reputed schools include the Juilliard School, Cleveland Institute of Music, Manhattan School of Music, and F.I.R.S.T. College.
With more and more insurance companies starting to cover music therapy and alternative medicine making its way into the mainstream, the outlook for music therapists is bright. In addition, music therapists will also increasingly practice in group settings in the future. Apart from sessions at home or in offices, music therapy will become a regular part of the routine at numerous nursing homes, assisted care facilities, cancer treatment centers, and other similar spaces. Another boost will be provided by the new set of music-loving senior citizens, who are slated to be the biggest consumers for and advocates of music therapy.