What is Music Therapy?

Music therapy is a research-based health practice in which music is used to actively support people as they aim to improve their health, functioning and well-being. It can help people of all ages to manage their physical and mental health and enhance their quality of life.

You don’t need to be musical to take part in or benefit from music therapy. Qualified music therapists plan and provide musical experiences for their clients in a face-to-face setting. Each session is tailored to the needs and goals of the client.

Music therapists are committed to supporting people of any age, ability or background. They work across the full age spectrum from newborn children through to older adults.


What is a Registered Music Therapist (RMT)?

A Registered Music Therapist (RMT) is a music therapist who is registered with the Australian Music Therapy Association (AMTA). A Registered Music Therapist needs to complete a certified university course in music therapy and maintain their skills through ongoing professional development as approved by the AMTA.

Currently in Australia, music therapy at is a masters course offered at The University of Melbourne and The Western Sydney University.  The course is two years full time.

To enter the masters course, students usually need to complete a Bachelor of Music. Other uni degrees are accepted if the student’s musical ability is high enough.

Find out more about becoming a Registered Music Therapist


Why use a Registered Music Therapist?

Registered Music Therapists are not only skilled musicians. They have trained at uni to understand how music can have an effect on people’s behaviours, feelings and thoughts. Music therapists use their training and musical ability to help clients achieve goals. These goals may include improved communication, function, movement, mood, feelings, and/or spiritual goals.


How can you find a Registered Music Therapist (RMT)?

You can find a Registered Music Therapist by using the Find a Music Therapist search on the right of this page.


How music therapy can help?

Research has shown that music therapy can help people in many ways.


Music therapy improves mental health and wellbeing

Research has shown that music therapy improves mental health and wellbeing. It can help:

  • Reduce anxiety or stress
  • Regulate moods and energy levels
  • Increase motivation
  • Manage anger and frustration
  • Manage challenging behaviour.


Music therapy improves speech, communication and social skills

Research has shown that music therapy improves speech, communication and social skills. It can help:

  • Improve verbal and non-verbal communication
  • Increase social communication skills
  • Increase social interaction
  • Increase independence
  • Give positive and new ways to deal with situations.


Music therapy improves body movement, coordination and function

Research has shown that music therapy improves body movement, coordination and function. It can help:

  • Improve gross motor function and control

    • Gross motor skills are the larger movements you make with your arms legs, feet, or entire body.
  • Improve fine motor function and control
    • Fine motor skills are the smaller movements you make using your wrists, hands, fingers, feet and toes.
  • Improve balance
  • Increase physical independence
  • Help regulate heart rate, breathing rate and blood pressure
  • Reduce breathlessness and sleeplessness.


Music therapy improves memory, attention and brain power

Research has shown that music therapy improves memory, attention and brain power. It can help:

  • Increase core executive functions: self-awareness, inhibition, non-verbal and verbal working memory, emotional self-regulation, self-motivation, planning and problem solving
  • Increase memory and attention.


Music therapy improves ability to deal with pain

Research has shown that music therapy improves the body’s ability to deal with pain. It can help:

  • Reduce pain by increasing the body’s production of natural pain killers.
  • Support faster recovery from medical procedures.


Who music therapy is for?

Music therapy can help support people of any age who might be experiencing challenges (including mental, intellectual, physical, emotional or social) or wishing to improve their well-being.

Music therapy is often used to help a wide range of conditions that affect mood, thinking, behaviour, communication and movement including:

  • Autism
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Dementia
  • Eating disorders
  • Personality disorders
  • Physical disabilities
  • Stroke rehabilitation.


Music therapy can also be used in hospitals and health care centres to help consumers deal with stress, discomfort and pain. It is used to help patients who have:

  • Cancer and diseases of the blood and bone marrow
  • Advanced diseases and have little or no chance of cure or recovery
  • Had a stroke or brain injury
  • Mental health illnesses
  • Had surgery or other medical procedures.


Where music therapy is used?

Music therapy is used in many settings such as:

  • Hospitals
  • Schools
  • Aged care homes
  • Residential care and palliative care facilities
  • Disability care facilities
  • Community health programs
  • Child care centres
  • Private practice.


What happens in a music therapy session?


A music therapy session occurs face-to-face either in person or online. Music therapists use a range of music making methods. They tailor each session to the needs of the person. A session may include:

  • Listening to music played by the music therapist.
  • Listening to recorded music.
  • Making music by playing an instrument or singing.
  • Using or writing lyrics and songs.
  • Getting resources and activities to do outside of your music therapy session.


To get the most benefit from your music therapy, music therapists try to understand your situation and goals. This can involve working closely with your family, carers and other health professionals such as:

  • Occupational therapists
  • Speech therapists
  • Psychologists
  • Psychiatrists
  • Neurologists and
  • Doctors.


How is music therapy different to music lessons or music entertainment?

Music therapy is different to music lessons and music entertainment in that:

  • The main goal of music therapy is not musical. For example, to improve fine motor skills, speech or communication skills. The use of music helps to achieve the goals. For example, motivating people to use their fingers and to respond to music emotionally and physically. The added benefits of music therapy are musical, and may include learning to read music or play an instrument.
  • The main goal of music lessons is music focused. For example, to learn how to play a musical instrument, sing or read music. The added benefits of music lessons are not musical, and may include improved confidence, focus and fine motor skills.
  • The main goal of music entertainment is entertainment. For example, a person listens to music or watches a concert to be entertained. It is a passive experience that involves listening to or participating in a musical activity. The added benefits of music entertainment can be the relaxation, thrill or an emotional feeling from the experience.