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Golisano Children's Hospital / Music Therapy / What is Music Therapy?


What is Music Therapy?

Music therapy is the use of musical experiences and the relationships that develop through them by a credentialed and trained clinician to work toward a person’s individualized, non-musical goals. In essence, music therapists use music as a therapeutic tool.

Music therapy is an established health service, similar to occupational therapy and physical therapy, which uses the unique functions of music to address physical, psychological, cognitive, and/or social needs for patients of all ages and abilities. A musical background is not required to participate in music therapy.

 “Music therapy is a systematic process of intervention wherein the therapist helps the patient to promote health, using music experiences and the relationships that develop through them as dynamic forces of change.” – Kenneth Bruscia

Music therapists must have either a bachelors, master, or doctoral degree in music therapy and receive training in music, therapeutic techniques, human development, and basic medical knowledge. In addition to their academic training, music therapists must pass a national music therapy board certification examination to earn the credential of Music Therapist-Board Certified (MT-BC). Music therapists practicing psychotherapy in New York State must be licensed by the New York State Education Department’s Office of the Professions as a Licensed Creative Arts Therapist (LCAT).

What is Unique About NICU Music Therapy?

Music therapy in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) is a specialized form of music therapy that includes practices developed and utilized by qualified music therapists who require specially designed training for practice in the NICU. For over 25 years, research has been conducted on music with premature infants, and a variety of procedures have been investigated and documented as beneficial.

The benefits of music therapy for premature infants in the NICU are vast. Research shows that music therapy can assist in the development of premature infants, decrease distress behaviors, reduce the length of hospitalization, and help infants return to their baseline state following a procedure. Music therapy has also been shown to increase infant oxygen saturation levels as well as reduce and regulate their heart and respiration rates.

To receive the title of “NICU Music Therapist,” a board-certified music therapist must complete a 30-hour training course, demonstrate competencies in evidence-based, protocolled interventions under supervision, and pass an additional examination. Upon completion, these music therapists are awarded a certificate and the use of the title NICU Music Therapist. Training is provided by the National Institute for Infant and Child Medical Music Therapy. Learn more about NICU Music Therapy specialization.