Who Can Benefit From Music Therapy?

Music therapy is used to help many different people at schools, in special education classes, nursing homes, group homes, hospitals, psychiatric hospitals, prisons, and people with addiction problems. Music affects a person psychologically as well as physiologically. Studies show that just listening to music makes your immune system stronger, and can even help you recover faster after surgery!

Special Needs Infants and Toddlers 

Music therapy is a wonderful way to encourage development and learning in infants and toddlers. Music stimulates all of the senses and involves the child at many levels. Quality learning and participation occur because music is highly motivating.

Children with Special Needs

A music therapist implements structured music activities to help individuals with multiple disabilities meet therapeutic and educational goals. Parents and teachers report that music is one of the few reinforcers that a student with multiple disabilities responds to consistently. Music is an important tool to use in developing strategies to enable an individual to receive maximum benefit from an individualized education program.

Individuals with Autism

Because music therapy is a powerful and non-threatening medium, unique outcomes are possible. Research has shown that music can be an engaging and attractive stimulus for individuals with autism. Several studies have documented music therapy as a successful treatment modality to engage the individual in social, emotional, cognitive, communication and motor learning activities. The application of music can be used to enhance attending behaviors and reduce distractibility as well. For individuals on the autism spectrum, music therapy provides varied music experiences in an intentional and developmentally appropriate manner to effect changes in behavior and facilitates the development of skills. For more information: Autism Fact Sheet - American Music Therapy Association

Individuals with Emotional and Behavioral Disorders

The goals of music therapy for individuals with emotional and behavioral disorders focuses on emotional, physical, cognitive and social growth. Individuals are encouraged to explore and express their feelings, values, ideas and opinions in the context of a non-threatening environment. For example, music with powerful lyrics can be used to stimulate group discussion about themes such as crime, family issues and drug use.

Individuals with Developmental Delays

Music therapy is used to improve social interaction, communication, pre-academic skills, attention span, following directions, eye contact, sensory stimulation, and gross and fine motor skills. Music therapists can address these needs by providing structured musical interventions that allow for a positive and successful experience. A music therapist implements movement, songs, and rhythmic experiences to address these needs. For example, asking an individual to stand up and shake hands with a peer during a greeting song addresses all of the above goals. Sensory stimulation is a main goal of music therapy for adults with profound mental retardation. Providing an individual with opportunities to strum the guitar or omnichord enhances their tactile sensitivity while engaging in a hands-on expressive/creative experience.


Barbara Crowl, past president of the National Association of Music Therapists stated, Music therapy can make the difference between withdrawal and awareness, between isolation and interaction, between chronic pain and comfort, between demoralization and dignity. Music therapy groups for geriatrics facilitate socialization, communication, reminiscence, fine/gross motor movement, and sensory stimulation.


"The last days of living should not be seen as defeat but as life's fulfillment. It is not merely a time of negotiation, but an opportunity for positive achievement. One of the ways we can help our patients most is to believe and expect this." - Cicely Saunders, Hospice founder


Music therapy techniques address the physical, emotional, cognitive, and spiritual needs of the patient. In a music therapy session, music serves as a tool to improve, restore, and maintain the physical and mental health of the patient.


Wellness sessions are focused on maintaining the person's emotional being and physical fitness. Therapeutic Instrument Music Playing (TIMP) is used to exercise and stimulate functional movement patterns. Music relaxation techniques are used to help alleviate stress and anxiety.