About Music Therapy


A simple definition:

Music therapy is the use of music within a therapeutic relationship to achieve non-musical goals.

In other words, music is the vehicle through which a trained music therapist helps a person improve in a variety of ways - but not necessarily to gain musical skills.

Examples of non-musical goals include:

  • To decrease anxiety

  • To increase physical range of motion

  • To improve cognitive skills

  • To increase expressive communication skills

Music therapy is usually interactive and focused on the client’s preferences and taste in music. Examples of musical experiences include:

  • Singing

  • Instrument playing

  • Listening

  • Improvisation

  • Moving and dancing

  • Song-writing

No previous musical experience is needed.

Click here to see an article about What Music Therapy Is and Is Not

A little history:

When vast numbers of soldiers returned from World War II, many of them suffered from “shell shock” (now called Post Traumatic Stress). Little was known about shell shock, but nurses noticed that many of the veterans responded when live musicians came to entertain the patients. Many patients were emotive, and showed interest for the first time. The musicians had stumbled into a situation they were not equipped to manage. In subsequent years, the profession of music therapy emerged. People were trained in a combination of music and psychology so that they could not only stir people with their music, but they could also contain and help process the response.

Today, music therapists work with people of all ages and with a wide range of needs, from birthing support to hospice, from neo-natal intensive care to older adult memory care, from supporting a child during a painful procedure in a hospital to exploring the subconscious through imagery and music.


Music therapists must complete a 4-year university degree, followed by a 6-month full-time internship, and pass the national exam to become MT-BC (“music therapist, board-certified”). Music therapists in the state of Oregon are also licensed through the Oregon Health Board.

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HoofnHorn specializes in working with those on the autism spectrum.

What makes Music therapy effective?

  • Music is organized - The steady beat and symmetrical phrasing in music are predictable, which creates an auditory sense of safety.

  • Music engages both hemispheres of the brain - The combination of rhythm and structure (left side) with melody and emotion (right side) trigger responses in both sides of the brain.

  • Music is a nonverbal language - An individual can have dialogues, express feelings, and relate to another person, even without words.

  • Music is fun