• Mai Abe, MT-BC

Top 5 Questions About Music Therapy

“I’m a music therapist.”


I love the reactions that I receive when I say this. People are always so curious and interested in hearing about what music therapy is about. It’s such a great opportunity for advocacy.


Here are my top 5 questions about music therapy!



1. What is Music Therapy?

Music therapy is the use of music (both receptive and active music-making) to achieve non-musical goals. These goals generally come in six different categories (I’ve included some examples of each category as well):


Social: turn-taking, awareness of others in a group

Emotional: identifying emotions, developing coping skills

Cognitive: following directions, increasing attention span

Communication: making certain speech sounds, making and communicating choices

Physical: fine and gross motor skills

Spiritual: self-identity, spiritual support


Music therapy is easily adaptable to the client’s needs and can be used with people of all ages and abilities. The beautiful thing about it is that no experience in music is needed whatsoever, just an open mind and a willingness to participate.


2. What Does Music Therapy Look Like?

Because music therapy centers around the goals and needs of the clients, there’s no set protocol for how a session looks. Everything is designed around what the clients need at that time. However, MT’s usually use four main methods:


Recreative: Using client’s preferred music for active music-making

Receptive: Using music to work on receptive listening skills and engage in music discussion

Improvisation: Using improvised music for expression and collaboration

Composition: Creating or rewriting songs personalized to the group/client’s journey


3. What Kind of People Do You Work With?

Everyone! No matter what age, ability, or musical knowledge you have. I’ve had the opportunity to work with adults/children with special needs, adults/teens in mental health/substance use disorders, older adults, corporate team building workshops, health and wellness groups, mommy and me classes, and more! Everyone has a connection to music, so everyone can benefit from music therapy.


4. How Do You Become an MT-BC (music therapist board certified)?

There are several different paths you can take to become a music therapist. Everyone needs to get a degree in music therapy. Most people get their bachelor’s in music therapy. Some people, like me, get their bachelor’s in a different area (usually music or psychology, or both!) You can then go on to a Master of Music Therapy Equivalency program. After you finish school, you need to complete a 6-month internship (1200 hours of clinical work). Once you finish all of that, you’re qualified to take the board exam, after which you can attach the initials MT-BC to your name.


5. What’s the Difference Between a Music Therapist, a Musician, and a Music Teacher?

I’ve actually written a blog about this very topic. You can check that out here. To summarize, the biggest difference between all of them is the purpose and intention behind the music. A musician’s purpose is to play the music to the best of their ability, a music teacher’s purpose is to enhance their students’ musical knowledge, and a music therapist’s purpose is to meet their clients’ non-musical goals.


Want to learn more about music therapy? Book a free consultation here!

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