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” (AMTA, 2016).

The American Music Therapy Association web site contains additional information about music therapy. The Southeastern Regional chapter of AMTA also has a web site which you will want to read.


Where do music therapists work?

Music therapists work with a variety of clinical populations, and in our program we prepare students so they are able to be effective music therapists with all of their clients. Music therapists are commonly work with:

  • Children and adults with cognitive disabilities
  • Children and adults with physical disabilities
  • Children and adults with sensory disabilities (e.g., vision and hearing loss)
  • Children and adults with autism spectrum disorder
  • Children and adults with emotional or behavior disorders
  • People with psychiatric needs
  • People in alcohol or drug addiction recovery
  • Children and adults receiving care in medical settings (including oncology, long-term care, and rehabilitation)
  • Older adults with memory care needs
  • People in hospice care

Our alumni are employed by school systems, hospitals, hospice organizations, and many have started their own music therapy private practices to serve a variety of local agencies.

What should I do to prepare for a music therapy degree program?

A music therapy program is, first and foremost, a music program. Acceptance into a music degree program requires preliminary training in applied music (performance) and some knowledge of music theory and literature. Standards for acceptance may vary among different institutions, but these standards should be available in a catalog, online, or by conferring with a music therapy professor at a given school. The University of Alabama’s requirements and the additional School of Music admission requirements are listed in the catalog.

Many prospective therapy students wonder what personality characteristics are good indicators of success in this field. A real commitment to helping people, plus the musical and academic dedication necessary to complete a music major are essential, of course. Stability, objectivity, and a strong sense of humor are necessary for balance and perspective. The people with whom we work generally respond best to a person who has a strong sense of values, but who can refrain from judging others and focus on solutions.

Any music degree requires hard work from a student, and music therapy is no exception. Nevertheless, creatively using your musicianship to help someone get through a rough time can make the hard work seem more than worth the effort. If you would like to learn more about what it would mean to be a music therapy major at The University of Alabama, please contact the program director, Dr. Andrea Cevasco-Trotter, amtrotter@ua.edu.