Music Therapy

What is Music Therapy?

Music Therapy is the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program.

Music Therapy is an allied health profession, now entering its 60th year, in which music is used within a therapeutic relationship to address physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs of individuals. After assessing the strengths and needs of each client, the qualified music therapist provides the indicated treatment including creating, singing, moving to, and/or listening to music. Through musical involvement in the therapeutic context, clients' abilities are strengthened and transferred to other areas of their lives.

Music therapy also provides avenues for communication that can be helpful to those who find it difficult to express themselves in words. Research in music therapy supports its effectiveness in many areas such as: overall physical rehabilitation and facilitating movement, increasing people's motivation to become engaged in their treatment, providing emotional support for clients and their families, and providing an outlet for expression of feelings.

The above is from the American Music Therapy Association Website (Oct. 2009)

Who is a Music Therapist?

A Music Therapist is someone who has completed a baccalaureate and/or graduate program in music therapy, which includes courses in music, psychology, biology, and behavioral sciences. The degree is followed by a 1000-hour clinical internship. After completing a national board certification exam, the music therapist earns the credentials, MT–BC, Music Therapist–Board Certified. Music Therapists are required to participate in on-going professional developmental workshops, such as DCM courses, to maintain their credentials.

Music Therapists play a variety of instruments including:

  • Guitar (and often Ukulele)
  • Piano and Keyboard
  • Drums and Percussion
  • Autoharp (Lap Zither)
  • Singing

Music Therapists are knowledgeable in a variety of genres and styles of music including:

  • Folk songs
  • Children's Songs
  • Popular songs
  • "Oldies"
  • Spirituals
  • Improvisation

Music Therapists work with a wide range of populations and settings including:

  • Children with Special Needs
  • Juvenile Offenders ("at risk" teens)
  • Adults in Substance Abuse Programs
  • Adults in Assisted Living
  • Persons with ID and TBI (Intellectual Disabilities, Traumatic Brain Injury)
  • Persons in Physical and Cognitive Therapy
  • Hospice and Palliative Care
  • Wellness and Recreation

"Music therapy is much more complicated than playing records in nursing homes. Therapists are trained in psychology, group interaction, and the special needs of the elderly."

- Sen. Harry Reid

How Does DCM Support Music Therapy?

DCM helps Music Therapists by providing:

  • a great variety of music-based games and activities.
  • frameworks for session design and implementation.
  • improvisational skills, both music- and movement-based.
  • drumming and techniques not often taught in MT programs.
  • opportunities to develop supportive skills in a safe environment.
  • materials that are developed by a music therapist.
  • specific strategies for use in music therapy settings.

What is Sound Healing or Sound Therapy?

Sound Healing is a practice that is based on the belief that certain sounds and vibrations can be used to produce predictable and positive changes in the physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects of the person. Sometimes called vibro-acoustic or vibro-tactile stimulation, in the field of Music Therapy, sound healing practices often include the playing of simple idiophones, (bells, singing bowls, gongs, and chimes), flutes, string instruments, and electronic devices. Specific vocalizing techniques, such as toning and chanting are also commonly incorporated into Sound Healing practices. The Sound Healer often plays for the client, who assumes a passive or receptive role in the treatment. A Sound Healer may self-designate themselves as such.

What is the main difference between Music Therapy and Sound Healing?

There are some areas of overlap between SH and MT, but there are striking difference as well. Some include:

  • Music Therapy uses Music of all kinds, while Sound Healing often uses single tones or vibrations.
  • Music Therapy can only be provided by a Music Therapist, while Sound Healing is open to anyone.
  • Music Therapy focuses on reaching observable goals and objectives, while Sound Healing focuses on changes in energy.
  • Music Therapy involves the participation of the client, while Sound Healing is often passive.

Music Therapy and Sound Healing provide a range of treatment options and outcomes. DCM course participants are often introduced to both SH and MT as part of their course experience. Anyone interested in pursuing Music Therapy is encouraged to complete a credentialed Music Therapy program. DCM training is not a substitute for Music Therapy training and certification.


Kalani has completed a Music Therapy program and currently presents Music Therapy sessions in the Los Angeles Area. He has presented professional development workshops for Music Therapists at both the Western Regional and National Music Therapy Conferences. He is a founding member of Music Therapy Drumming, a world percussion curriculum for Music Therapists.

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