What is Music Therapy?

As defined by the American Music Association, 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." As one of the leading Music Therapists in the field explains, "Music Therapy is a systematic process of intervention wherein the therapist helps the client to promote health using music experiences and the relationships that develop through them as dynamic forces of change" (Bruscia, 1998).

As Wigram explains in his book, A Comprehensive Guide to Music Therapy, "Over the last fifty years, music therapy has developed as a clinically applied treatment administered by trained professionals in countries where the development of graduate and post-graduate level training and clinical practice has resulted in qualified and recognized practitioners. Music Therapy is now accepted as a discipline alongside other paramedical professions such as physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy and psychology in paramedical services and special education services provided by health and education authorities."

Music therapy has endless methods and approaches to assist in the healing of a person. Rhythmic music helps people move more fluidly, singing supports speech recovery, preferred music can change affective states, associations can engage memory. This all can occur despite congenital or acquired diseases or disorders because music is an emotional medium. Music therapy can powerfully transform emotional states. Music can provide a pathway for sound and ideas and assist in redirection and reduction of pain. With music can help with transforming behavior and be used to cue favorable behaviors and be a platform where a person can share their thoughts, feelings and emotions.


The origin of music itself is unknown, but as researcher Dr. Debbie Carroll (2011) in her paper, Historical Roots of Music Therapy: A Brief Overview,". Music was created out of man's need to communicate with the outside world. He imitated sounds from inside the body and from outside (e.g. environmental sounds, animal sounds). Music played an integral role in all aspects of life such as: work, play, rites of passage and healing. The roots of Music Therapy run very deep for since the beginning of mankind music has been used as a means of communication and healing."


“I am inspired by Tom Sweitzer’s incredible talent, dedication, and especially by his creative approach to his music therapy practice. His passion for his work is contagious – observing the transformative effect he has on the lives of so many is really something special. I was absolutely delighted to have had the chance to meet Tom and Forrest Allen, and to perform with the Different Strokes for Different Folks choir at the Sound Health: Music and the Mind events, as part of the Kennedy Center/NIH partnership exploring the intersection of music, health, and neuroscience. They were an integral part of the weekend’s success, and Tom is an especially remarkable advocate for the power of music and music therapy to move and heal us.”
-Renée Fleming, World-renowned Opera Singer-