Mental Health, Wellness / Self-Care

What is Music Therapy and does it work?

Cheers to this soothing option.

words by: Natasha Marsh
May 15, 2022

You know the feeling you get when a song’s notes have the power to cut deep and hit you in a therapeutic way? And as a result, your mood changes? Music has the power to do that and it’s not just by chance.


Music is a therapy tool as much as it is a gym motivator or study buddy. Because music interacts with a human’s nervous system, endocrine system, and autonomic nervous system, and can alter how you respond to anxiety-inducing situations, music therapy is a real, tangible outlet.


What is music therapy? How does it work?

Music therapy might not sound so outlandish if you use it to help you cope with some situations. For example, to put meaning towards feelings, music therapy takes the same approach, just in a different setting. Professionals who hold a music therapy degree use clinical methods to support their clients through mental health struggles with music-based intervention.


For example, a therapist might play certain music to encourage non-verbal communication. Or, to stimulate being mindful, writing or composing lyrics and music can help with that. Instruments can be easier to communicate with than words to some people. Therapists will also pay attention to the music styles the patient likes the most—it’s a more successful practice that way. For example, Drake fans probably want to listen to music that’s similar.


Just like with other therapy methods, there are different kinds of music therapy. One type stimulates the mind— neurologic music therapy. It’s usually used for those who have had traumatic brain injuries, like a stroke.


For other patients, a clinician would turn to melodic intonation therapy to help with speech. This type of therapy would use melodies to improve those diction skills. Clinicians have found that using music from a patient’s young adult years—their 20s, is the best music to implore. It tends to resonate the most and has vivid memories for patients.


How do I find a music therapist?

If you’re interested in finding a music therapist, there’s a couple different ways you can do so. You can either access a list that uses your insurance via your carrier’s website or by using Psychology Today. The website has a clinician-matching tool that you can use with filters to find a therapist concentrating in music.


Additionally, use Google to find professionals with MT-BC—this is their music therapy credential. You can also look to colleges with music therapy programs, as well as the American Music Therapy Association. Certified music therapists can practice across many states, as MT-BC is a national credential. Just be mindful that in some states, a music therapy licensure is required, so they may need that in order to practice, as well.


In related therapy news, Ted Lasso helps fans embrace their therapy.


Photo via Dribble