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.

Music Therapy is an established health profession in which music is used within a therapeutic relationship to address physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs of individuals. After assessing the strengths and needs of each client, the qualified music therapist provides the indicated treatment including creating, singing, moving to, and/or listening to music. Through musical involvement in the therapeutic context, clients' abilities are strengthened and transferred to other areas of their lives. Music therapy also provides avenues for communication that can be helpful to those who find it difficult to express themselves in words. Research in music therapy supports its effectiveness in many areas such as: overall physical rehabilitation and facilitating movement, increasing people's motivation to become engaged in their treatment, providing emotional support for clients and their families, and providing an outlet for expression of feelings.

source: www.musictherapy.org

Where do Music Therapists Work?

Music therapist work in all kinds of settings, such as hospitals, mental health treatment, early childhood, schools, assisted living, hospice, and more!  At Wildwood Creative, we focus on music therapy that is geared towards self-empowerment and community building. This can happen in most any setting and with a variety of diagnoses.

Sample session plan

Because music therapists work with such a variety of populations, no session plan will ever look like another. Our clients' musical tastes and needs inform the type of  work we do with them, and those often can change from session to session. That being said, here is an example of a session plan for 50-minute session with a memory care group whose goal areas are to increase social engagement and cognitive skills:

Hello Song

Most sessions begin with a greeting song in order to orient the participants and create a welcoming atmosphere for all those involved--clients, any friends or family, and of course staff!

Warm-up Singing to 1-3 familiar songs

It's important to provide opportunity for success right off the bat, and few things feel better than singing a song you know all the words to. During this time it's not unusual to see increased eye contact, alertness, and smiling faces. 

Guided Movement

Our brain loves predictable patterns. By participating in guided movement, we become more alert and aware of our bodies and our surroundings. Often after a few minutes of guided movement, clients will begin inventing dance moves of their own, which then creates opportunity for increased social interaction and self-expression.

Instrument Play

Playing a small percussion instrument such as a tambourine or a maraca adds another texture to the music. 

Cognitive Exercise

This is what is often called "the meat of the session." It can be anything from exploring a new instrument, songwriting, group discussion, choreographing a dance, and more. What direction it goes depends on the clients themselves, and it can adapt in the moment to meet their unique needs.


Just like coming home and changing into comfortable clothes after work, our minds need a chance to rest after participating in an exercise that is cognitively engaging! A cool down can take a variety of forms, including receptive listening, stretching, or even singing another familiar song.

Goodbye Song

This simply affirms that the session is over, and assists in transitioning back to daily activities. Some clients like to include lyrics to describe what to expect (for example, what the next activity is, or when the next session is happening), while others prefer a simple "Happy Trails to You."