Inevitably when asked what I do, that question is followed by a string of questions I never tire of answering. Sometimes the answer is simple and other times very detailed, always depending on how much a person wants to know. I am pleased to be given this opportunity again to share about the profession of music therapy — what’s involved and who can benefit.

Music therapy is administered by a board-certified music therapist who has a degree in music therapy after having studied psychology, music and medicine from an approved school. It is recognized as a heath care discipline and utilizes research to support its use of clinical and evidence-based music interventions to meet the needs of individuals. A music therapist working with an individual or group will make assessments and then design a treatment plan to address the needs of the individual or group.

Music therapists work with all ages of people and someone receiving music therapy does not need a music background to benefit. Music therapy addresses intellectual disabilities, behavioral and communication needs, social and spiritual needs, anxiety, coping, pain management, addiction and end-of-life care to mention a few.

Music therapist can be found working in medical settings, educational settings, private practices, children’s centers and prisons. There are even corporate music therapists working in large business corporations to enhance relaxation and reduce anxiety for employees. The practice of music therapy is governed by the American Music Therapy Association and the Certification Board for Music Therapy. Both organizations outline scopes of practice and codes of conduct for music therapy regulations. The MT-BC (music therapist-board certified) credential is recognized nationally in all 50 states and currently there are 7,289 board certified music therapists in the United States. Wyoming has five board certified music therapists.

Music has been recognized as a need in the medical setting dating back to the early 1800s and began to grow as a health practice after World War II. Immediately after both WWI and WWII, it was noticed by doctors and nurses in Veteran Affairs hospitals across the United States that when musicians were brought in to play for patients, positive emotional and physical changes were occurring. This led for a push to have musicians in the VA hospitals but it was discovered that musicians needed training and instruction in medicine and psychology as well. Thus, several pioneers led the way and music therapy schools began appearing around 1944.

There are no “typical” music therapy sessions as each group or individual brings uniqueness and the goals are individualized. The session might follow a structure with beginning, middle and ending or might follow a free form. The music therapist develops a strong rapport with clients as music can elicit strong emotional responses and connections. The therapist is trained to conduct the music therapy session in a safe and trusting atmosphere. The therapist will encourage active music making to address a variety of needs or may provide opportunities for receptive music listening to enhance relaxation and refocus attention from anxiety or pain.

For more information on music therapy, I encourage readers to visit the American Music Therapy Association’s website at or the Certification Board for Music Therapy at

Andy Edmundson is a music therapist in the Sheridan area. Center Stage is written by friends of the Senior Center for the Sheridan Community. It is a collection of insights and stories related to living well at every age.