The use of music as a treatment tool dates back to the time of Plato and Aristotle. However, it was not until centuries later that its efficacy was substantiated by scientific method. This “modern” Music Therapy had its beginnings in the Veterans’ Hospitals after World War I and World War II. There, community musicians of all types, both amateur and professional, played for the thousands of veterans suffering both physical and emotional trauma as a result of combat. The patients’ notable physical and emotional responses to music led the doctors and nurses to request the hiring of musicians by the hospitals. It was soon evident that these musicians needed prior training before entering the facility. The first Music Therapy degree program in the world, founded at Michigan State University in 1944, was created to fulfill that demand. Since then, over seventy more colleges and universities have followed suit. Two professional organizations were also created–the National Association for Music Therapy in 1950 and the American Association of Music Therapists in 1971. Then in 1998 these two groups joined forces to become the American Music Therapy Association.
Today, music therapists are employed worldwide in general and psychiatric hospitals, substance abuse facilities, mental health agencies, rehabilitation centers, day care facilities, nursing homes, facilities for the developmentally disabled, schools, hospices, correctional facilities, and private practice. Music Therapy, as broadly defined by the American Music Therapy Association, is “the prescribed use of music by a qualified person to effect positive changes in the psychological, physical, cognitive, or social functioning of individuals with health or educational problems” (AMTA 1999). It is the systematic application of music in the treatment of the physiological, psychological, and social aspects of an illness or disability. Music Therapy can be used as a diagnostic aid, to identify problem areas such as developmental delays, emotional/psychological issues, family interaction, feeling expression, pain management, and decreased environmental awareness, in both verbal and nonverbal persons. It can also reinforce other treatment modalities, such as occupational therapy and physical therapy.