So…What is Music Therapy? – Part 1

Hello everyone, it’s Kylie Klym RP, MTA again!

Thank you to all who took the time to read my first guest blog from last month. For those who missed it, you can find it at:

I am back to share that March is National Music Therapy Month!

There will be events, presentations and articles by other Accredited Music Therapists across Canada this month. In addition, the Canadian Association for Music Therapy and the Canadian Music Therapy Trust Fund will be raising public awareness about music therapy across the country. For example, The Canadian Music Therapy Trust Fund hosted a March for Music Therapy in four major cities across Canada on March 20th. The cities included Toronto, Montreal, Calgary and Vancouver.  (And I like to think that someday I wish to bring it to Sudbury!)

For Music Therapy Month, I would like to share with you a question I am regularly asked. That question is: “So…What is music therapy?” There is no short answer to the question, so this blog is part 1 of 2. Part 2 will be released next week.


Music Therapy is the skillful use of music and musical elements used by an Accredited Music Therapist to promote, maintain and restore physical, emotional and mental health.

This is my definition that is a shortened version of the Canadian Association for Music Therapy’s definition.

To break this down, I would like to take you back to the Fall of 2007.

I was in the first semester of the Bachelor of Music Therapy program at the University of Windsor. My professor, Dr. Sandi Curtis, PhD, MTA, MT-BC, explained in my Introduction of Music Therapy class that there are four key elements for safe music therapy. These four key elements include:

  • Client with a block or need
  • Music
  • Music Therapist (MTA or MT-BC)
  • Therapeutic Relationship

Let’s quickly go through each point:

  • Client with a block or need

Clients can come to music therapy for a variety of different reasons. Common clients I see include seniors with Dementia or children with Autism.

  • Music

In a music therapy session, the music is used as a form of communication and structure for the client-therapist relationship. This may look like the use of a familiar song for a senior with dementia to sing along to or the use of drums to allow a young child to improvise with a therapist.  It is important to use the music preferred by the client, so music therapists are expected to have a large repertoire (or collection of music) to meet the client’s requests.

  • Music Therapist (MTA or MT-BC)

Music therapists are professionals just like Nurses, Physiotherapists and Social Workers. When working with or looking for a music therapist, it is important to ask if the music therapist is a Music Therapist Accredited (MTA). This means they are professionals that have been certified by the CAMT. Canadian MTAs might also be double certified with the American’s certification, Music Therapist-Board Certified (MT-BC). After certification, an Accredited Music Therapist is required to obtain and maintain professional standards outlined by the CAMT. In addition, MTAs in Ontario can register with the College of Registered Psychotherapists. I joined the College of Registered Psychotherapists because I wanted to provide my clients with additional reassurance that I am a professional music therapist.

  • Therapeutic Relationship

When a client starts music therapy, the music therapist will develop a therapeutic relationship with the client. Part of the music therapy training, MTAs are taught how to develop a supportive relationship with the client to help the client empower themselves in the therapy process.

If any of these elements are missing, it is not music therapy. The absence of any one of these elements will result in the process to be music education or music entertainment. When I return for Part 2, I will provide examples of music therapy and what is commonly misunderstood to be music therapy.


Kylie Klym RP, MTA


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