Skip to Main Content

Home Explore Careers

Music Therapists

History

Creative arts therapy programs are fairly recent additions to the health care field. Although many theories of mental and physical therapy have existed for centuries, it has been only in the last 70 years or so that health care professionals have truly realized the healing powers of music and other forms of artistic self-expression.

According to the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA), the discipline of music therapy began during World War I, when amateur and professional musicians visited veteran's hospitals to play for the thousands of veterans who were being treated for both physical and emotional maladies caused by the war. Health administrators and physicians recognized that the music positively affected their patients, and music therapists were hired to formally work with patients. The field of music therapy advanced further during and after World War II, when the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) developed and organized various music and other creative arts activities for patients in VA hospitals. These activities had a dramatic effect on the physical and mental well-being of the veterans, and music and other creative arts therapists began to help treat and rehabilitate patients in other health care settings.

As music therapy grew in popularity, it became evident that formal training was needed for music therapists to be most effective. The first music therapy degree program in the world was founded at Michigan State University in 1944. Today, there are more than 70 AMTA-approved music therapy programs in the United States and Canada.

In 1998, the AMTA was founded as a result of a merger between the National Association for Music Therapy and the American Association for Music Therapy. Its oversight of educational programs ensures the professional integrity of music therapists working in the field.

Related Professions