Music Therapy

The Canadian Association of Music Therapists (CAMT) oversees the certification of music therapists in Canada. “Music therapy is a discipline in which credentialed professionals use music purposefully within therapeutic relationships to support development, health, and wellbeing. Music therapists use music safely and ethically to address human needs within cognitive, communicative, emotional, musical, physical, social, and spiritual domains” (CAMT 2018). Music therapy is used with individuals of various ages, abilities, and musical backgrounds in clinical, educational, community, and private practice settings. The list below includes examples of medical conditions, living conditions, and goal areas that might lead to someone accessing music therapy:

Acquired Brain Injury
Autism and other Pervasive Development Disabilities
Critical Care
Developmental Disabilities
Emotional Traumas
Geriatric Care
Hearing Impairments
Mental Health Difficulties
Neonatal Care
Pain Control
Palliative Care
Personal Growth
Physical Disabilities
Speech and Language Impairments
Substance Abuse
Teens at Risk
Victims of Abuse
Visual Impairments

One example of using music therapy to ameliorate the problems faced by patients suffering from autistic spectrum disorders (ASD) is in communication. As an alternative to using words to communicate, musical activities such as improvisation, songwriting, playing musical instruments, listening to music, or dancing to music can promote social skills and interaction. Making eye contact and how to take turns are actions that complement these types of activities. Incorporating learnable lessons (for example, taking turns) into the lyrics of a song can make the educational process more accessible. Likewise, songs can be used as musical cues for promoting desirable actions, which, once learned, the cues could be phased out. A recent study found that music therapy helps individuals experiencing ASD “to improve their skills in primary outcome areas that constitute the core of the condition including social interaction, verbal communication, initiating behaviour, and social emotional reciprocity” (Geretsegger 2014).

Music therapy intervention is used in oncology. Although music therapy does not provide a solution for the actual disease of cancer, it is capable of having a huge impact on the patient’s mood, and can often provide much-needed coping skills and attitudinal change toward their lives and the disease itself. The nature of music being creative, structural, emotional, and (optionally) non-verbal facilitates the development of self-awareness, self-expression, and personal development. These tools promote physical rehabilitation and are important as preventive, curative and palliative cancer care techniques.

CAMT facilitates post-degree certification in the form of a Music Therapist Accredited (MTA) designation. They recognize several universities across Canada that offer degrees in music therapy. Sir Wilfrid Laurier University in Kitchener, Ontario, offers degrees in both Bachelor of Music Therapy and Master of Music Therapy. Laurier describes the philosophy of their Masters program as music-centered psychotherapy. They use clinical, theoretical, and experiential practices to develop collaborative musicianship and psychotherapeutic techniques. Graduates assume positions at hospitals, universities, health clinics and other private practices (Rx Music 2020).