How to Find a Music Therapist

If you are interested in locating a music therapist, please contact AMTA at findMT@musictherapy.org or at the address below. AMTA National Office staff can provide you with a current list of qualified music therapists in your local area free of charge. Please give us the location in which you are looking and be sure to include your postal or email address with your request.

Or, click here to find a Music Therapist in our online directory.

Hiring a Music Therapist: Answering What, Who, Where, How and Why

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 degree program. (American Music Therapy Association definition, 2005)  (more: http://www.musictherapy.org/about/quotes/)

What do music therapists do?

Music therapists assess emotional well-being, physical health, social functioning, communication abilities, and cognitive skills through musical responses; design music sessions for individuals and groups based on client needs using music improvisation, receptive music listening, song writing, lyric discussion, music and imagery, music performance, and learning through music; participate in interdisciplinary treatment planning, ongoing evaluation, and follow up.

Who can benefit from music therapy?

Children, adolescents, adults, and the elderly with mental health needs, developmental and learning disabilities, Alzheimer's disease and other aging related conditions, substance abuse problems, brain injuries, physical disabilities, and acute and chronic pain, including mothers in labor.  (personal stories: http://www.musictherapy.org/about/personal_stories/)

Where do music therapists work?

Music therapists work in a wide variety of settings including (but not limited to) psychiatric hospitals, rehabilitative facilities, medical hospitals, outpatient clinics, day care treatment centers, agencies serving developmentally disabled persons, community mental health centers, drug and alcohol programs, senior centers, nursing homes, hospice programs, correctional facilities, halfway houses, schools, and private practice.

Who is qualified to practice music therapy?

Persons who complete one of the approved bachelors, equivalency, or equivalency masters college music therapy curricula (including an internship) are then eligible to sit for the national examination offered by the Certification Board for Music Therapists. To verify certification credentials of an individual, go to http://cbmt.org/certificant_search. Music therapists who successfully complete the independently administered examination hold the credential Music Therapist, Board Certified (MT-BC).

The National Music Therapy Registry (NMTR) serves qualified music therapy professionals with the following designations: RMT (Registered Music Therapist), CMT (Certified Music Therapist), ACMT (Advanced Certified Music Therapist). While new RMT, CMT, and ACMT designations are no longer awarded, individuals who have received and continue to maintain these designations have met accepted educational and clinical training standards and are qualified to practice music therapy. 

Is there research to support music therapy?

AMTA promotes a vast amount of research exploring the benefits of music therapy through publication of the Journal of Music Therapy, Music Therapy Perspectives and other publications. A substantial body of literature exists to support the effectiveness of music therapy.  (more: http://www.musictherapy.org/research/factsheets/)

Myths about music therapy.

Myth: The client or patient must have some particular music ability to benefit from music therapy.

Reality: Musical training is not a prerequisite to benefit from music therapy intervention. The focus is on non-musical goals and the music therapist is trained to structure and facilitate music-based interventions tailored to the individual client or patient.

Myth: One particular style or genre of music is more therapeutic than all the rest and works for everyone.

Reality: All styles of music can be useful in effecting change in a client or patient's life. The music therapist assesses the client or patients’ preferences, circumstances, need for treatment, and goals. Types of music to be used are then determined as a part of the therapeutic process based on this assessment.

How is music therapy utilized in hospitals?

Music is used in general hospitals to: alleviate pain in conjunction with anesthesia or pain; medication; elevate mood and reduce depression; promote movement for physical rehabilitation; calm or sedate, often to induce sleep; reduce apprehension or fear; and lessen muscle tension for the purpose of relaxation, including the autonomic nervous system.  (Fact Sheets: http://www.musictherapy.org/assets/1/7/MT_Medicine_2006.pdf, http://www.musictherapy.org/assets/1/7/MT_Pain_2010.pdf)

How is music therapy utilized in nursing homes?

Music is used with elderly persons to increase or maintain their level of physical, mental, and social/emotional functioning. The sensory and intellectual stimulation of music can help maintain a person's quality of life.  (Fact Sheet: http://www.musictherapy.org/assets/1/7/MT_Alzheimers_2006.pdf)

How is music therapy utilized in schools?

Music therapists are often hired in schools to provide music therapy services listed on the Individualized Education Plan for special learners including those on the autism spectrum. Music learning is used to strengthen nonmusical areas such as communication skills and physical coordination skills which are important for daily life. (Fact Sheets: http://www.musictherapy.org/assets/1/7/MT_Young_Children_2006.pdf, http://www.musictherapy.org/assets/1/7/MT_Music_Ed_2006.pdf, http://www.musictherapy.org/assets/1/7/MT_Special_Ed_2006.pdf, http://www.musictherapy.org/assets/1/7/MT_Autism_2006.pdf)

infopod_graphicv2_smParent information for music therapy and the IEP. AMTA's Director of Government Relations, Judy Simpson, MT-BC, walks parents through the process of requesting the inclusion of music therapy on their child's IEP.

How is music therapy utilized in psychiatric facilities?

Music therapy allows persons with mental health needs to: explore personal feelings, make positive changes in mood and emotional states, have a sense of control over life through successful experiences, practice problem solving, and resolve conflicts leading to stronger family and peer relationships. (Fact Sheet: http://www.musictherapy.org/assets/1/7/MT_Mental_Health_2006.pdf)

Are music therapists licensed?

Professional music therapists are Board Certified. Some states have recognized music therapy at a variety of levels from Registration to Licensure. Nevada, North Dakota, and Georgia currently have a music therapy license. New York state recognizes a creative arts therapy license, which includes music therapists. Many more states are currently working toward state recognition or licensure (http://www.musictherapy.org/policy/stateadvocacy/  State Recognition Plan: http://www.cbmt.org/advocacy/state-recognition/)

Is music therapy a reimbursable service?

The American Music Therapy Association now estimates that approximately 20% of music therapists receive third party reimbursement for the services they provide.

Music therapy is comparable to other allied health professions like occupational therapy and physical therapy in that individual assessments are provided for each client, service must be found reasonable and necessary for the individual’s illness or injury and interventions include a goal-directed documented treatment plan.

Medicare

Since 1994, music therapy has been identified as a reimbursable service under benefits for Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHP). Falling under the heading of Activity Therapy, the interventions cannot be purely recreational or diversionary in nature and must be individualized and based on goals specified in the treatment plan. The current HCPCS Code for PHP is G0176.

Music therapy must be considered an active treatment by meeting the following criteria:

  1. Be prescribed by a physician;
  2. Be reasonable and necessary for the treatment of the individual’s illness or injury;
  3. Be goal directed and based on a documented treatment plan;
  4. The goal of treatment cannot be to merely maintain current level of functioning; the individual must exhibit some level of improvement.

Medicaid

There are currently a few states that allow payment for music therapy services through use of Medicaid Home and Community Based Care waivers with certain client groups. In some situations, although music therapy may not be specifically listed within regulatory language, due to functional outcomes achieved, music therapy interventions qualify for coverage under existing treatment categories such as community support, rehabilitation, or habilitation services.

Private Insurance

The number of success stories involving third party reimbursement for the provision of music therapy services continues to grow as more clinicians seek this coverage. In response to the increasing demand, the music therapy profession has worked to facilitate the reimbursement process for clients of music therapy services.

Companies like Blue Cross Blue Shield, United Healthcare, Cigna, and Aetna have all paid for music therapy services at some time. Success has occurred on a case-by-case basis when the therapist implements steps within the reimbursement process. Like other therapies, music therapy is reimbursable when services are pre-approved and deemed medically or behaviorally necessary to reach the individual patient's treatment goals.

Other Sources

Additional sources for reimbursement and financing of music therapy services include: many state departments of mental health, state departments of developmental disabilities, state adoption subsidy programs, private auto insurance, employee worker’s compensation, county boards of developmental disabilities, IDEA Part B related services funds, foundations, grants, and private pay.

Certification Board for Music Therapists

The Certification Board for Music Therapists (CBMT) was incorporated in 1983 to strengthen the credibility of the music therapy profession by assuring the competency of credentialed music therapists. The first music therapy board examination was administered two years later. CBMT has been fully-accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies since 1986 and is committed to maintaining certification and recertification requirements that reflect current music therapy practice. To date, there are over 5,000 certificants who hold the credential Music Therapist-Board Certified (MT-BC). CBMT and AMTA are separate, independent organizations. Contact the Certification Board for Music Therapists to learn whether an individual is a current, Board Certified Music Therapist (MT-BC) by calling 1-800-765-2268 or go to www.cbmt.org.

American Music Therapy Association

The American Music Therapy Association (AMTA) is the professional association for music therapists. AMTA was formed in 1998 as a merger between the National Association for Music Therapy and the American Association for Music Therapy. AMTA united the music therapy profession for the first time since 1971. Currently, AMTA is the intellectual home of and serves over 5,000 music therapists. It publishes two research journals as well as a line of publications, serves as an advocate for music therapy on the state and federal levels, promotes music therapy through social media streams, and provides research bibliographies, podcasts, scholarships, and newsletters to its members. AMTA is the single largest music therapy association in the world, representing music therapists in the United States and in over 30 countries around the globe. (http://www.musictherapy.org/about/amta/The mission of the American Music Therapy Association is to advance public knowledge of the benefits of music therapy and to increase access to quality music therapy services in a rapidly changing world.