Healthcare & Medical
Music therapists direct music therapy activities designed to positively influence patients' social, emotional or physical difficulties.
Bachelor's degree + post-graduate qualification / training
What does a Music Therapist do?
Music therapists plan, organise and direct music therapy activities designed to positively influence patients' social, emotional or physical difficulties.
As a music therapist, you would:
- agree therapy objectives with the client at the outset of the relationship;
- plan, review and assess therapy sessions to monitor their effectiveness
- take an active role in sessions by playing, singing and listening
- encourage clients to take part in the session and support them by responding musically
- encourage clients to use a range of accessible musical instruments, such as percussion, and their own voice to express themselves
- help clients explore the world of sound and to communicate through a musical language of their own
- help the client develop an increased self-awareness
- assess the musical and non-musical behaviours of the client
- write up case notes and reports.
Music therapy is based on the development of a relationship between the therapist and client, who communicate through music-making. Music therapists do not teach the client to sing or play an instrument. They work with clients either in groups or on a one-to-one basis.
Music therapists work closely with other health care professionals such as referring doctors, nurses, occupational therapists, psychologists and speech and language therapists.
Key skills and interests
To become a music therapist, you would need:
- a genuine desire to help people
- an appreciation for a wide range of music styles
- a high level of musical ability
- knowledge of different styles of music
- creativity, intuition and imagination
- the ability to relate to people from all backgrounds
- a non-judgmental attitude.
Working hours and conditions
You would typically work standard business hours, Monday to Friday. Some jobs may involve evening or weekend sessions. Part-time and freelance work is common.
Many music therapists work in health services, including government health services. Some are self-employed, and work in private practice. You would usually work in a specially equipped music room, in settings such as schools, hospitals, prisons and medical centres. You may need to travel between different locations during your working day.
How to become an Music Therapist?
Entry Level Education
To become a music therapist you usually have to complete a music degree followed by a postgraduate qualification in music therapy. Graduates with a degree in another discipline may be considered for postgraduate degrees if they have an appropriate level of musical experience.
To get into degree courses you usually need to gain your senior secondary school certificate or equivalent with English. Entry to postgraduate courses usually requires completion of an appropriate bachelor degree.
Graduates may be eligible for registration with the Australian Music Therapy Association.
Employment of music therapists is projected to grow about as fast as the average for all occupations.
Therapy is a growing area generally, and this growth will provide opportunities for therapists of all types, including music therapists.