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Music Therapy 101

History of Music Therapy

What is music therapy?
History of music therapy
Who seeks help from music therapists?
Who uses music therapy for treatment?
Theory and Implementation
Education and Training
Music Therapy Links
Case Studies
Beat Stress Flyer


Music has been used throughout history for therapeutic purposes.  Some primitive cultures believed that certain song or chants evoked the presence of supernatural beings or deities.  There is evidence of shamanistic practices as early as Paleolithic times.  The Bible recounts tales of Hebrews using music to alleviate illnesses.  


The Greeks were the first to examine the therapeutic effects of music on the ill (Covington, H., 2001).  Great intellectuals, such as Plato, Homer and Aristotle all believed that music is a modality that affects both body and soul (Covington, H., 2001). 


Native Americans use drumming during healing ceremonies that use the concept of guided imagery to produce an altered state of consciousness.  In the 1940’s, the use of music for therapeutic purposes was first used in a health care setting for the treatment of psychiatric disorders.  This occurs as a result of a shift in health care implementation from a mechanistic approach to a more holistic approach.  The profession emerged in 1950 from rehab done via music with patients at Veteran’s hospital after WWII (Davis, Gfeller, & Thaut, 1999).


Currently there are over 5,000 Music Therapists employed in facilities such as hospitals, day care facilities, schools, mental health clinics, substance abuse facilities, homes, hospices, and private practices throughout the U.S.