Article: Music Therapy

Music Therapy

This page is part of Activate Good’s Triangle Cause Wiki, a collaborative online knowledge base about Triangle area issues that can be tackled by locals through volunteer action.

Table of Contents

How You Can Help

Take action! Find a local volunteer opportunity related to health and medicine!

About Music Therapy in Our Community

Overview of Issue Impacts

Broadly defined, music therapy is the use of music to achieve non-musical therapy goals. This use of music involves a variety of different activities, like music listening, songwriting, or lyric analysis, all of which can be applied towards the achievement of a variety of different therapeutic goals, whether in the area of speech, cognition, or mental health. Music therapy has already seen broad use in a variety of settings like hospice care facilities, neonatal ICUs, and nursing homes, suggesting its utility in diverse applications. Therapy sessions are designed to be specific to the individual, based on a variety of factors like age, physical health, interests, and communication abilities. Generally, two approaches are emphasized. The first is the creative process, which utilizes the active creation of music to achieve the desired therapy goals. The second is the receptive process, which utilizes music listening in order to produce the desired therapeutic effects (1).

Music has likely been used therapeutically since antiquity; however, most scholarly research and historical sources regarding music therapy have focused on its application in Western society. Indeed, many indigenous cultures around the world have strong traditions of using music as a therapeutic medium in a variety of ways. Throughout the 19th century, formal scientific investigations began to look at the psychological and physiological effects of music; after World War I and World War II, music therapy began to be applied in the treatment of veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. By this time, music therapy had begun to gain formal recognition as a formal discipline, leading to the creation of professional organizations and college-level programs. Since then, music therapy has developed into a remarkably diverse field that continues to help numerous patients around the world (2).

Populations Affected by Issue

In recent years, the use of music therapy around the world has become increasingly common, a trend mirrored in North Carolina and the Triangle. Many people depend on music therapy for the wide range of mental and emotional benefits that it offers; as aforementioned, music therapy has been successfully applied in the management of a wide variety of conditions, like mental health disorders or speech disabilities. Today, most music therapy organizations and advocacy groups focus on increasing public awareness of music therapy and its applications. Another area of focus is the improvement of patient access to music therapy resources. This includes encouraging more people to pursue careers in music therapy and improving funding options for music therapy services, whether through more comprehensive insurance coverage or more accessible private funding opportunities. Overall, the important work of these organizations means that more people will have access to the music therapy resources that could benefit them.

Fast Facts


  1. What is Music Therapy? University of Michigan (2016) 
  2. Music Therapy, Howland, K. M., Encyclopedia Britannica (2017) 
  3. Snapshot of the Music Therapy Profession, American Music Therapy Association (2011) 
  4. Music to Reduce Pain and Distress in the Pediatric Emergency Department: A Randomized Clinical Trial, Hartling L, Newton AS, Liang Y, et al., JAMA Pediatr. (2013).

Additional Resources

Interested in learning more about this issue? Check out some of these books, articles, documentaries, podcasts, and more. We’re also a Bookshop affiliate! Explore even more suggested Triangle Cause Wiki Reads. If you find something you like and make a purchase through our shop, Activate Good will receive a portion of the sale.

Page Contributors

Thank you to the following contributors:

  • Summer 2020:
    • Andy Q.
  • Spring 2021:
    • Jasmine Wilson, MT-BC

The Triangle Cause Wiki is always incomplete — there’s always new information out there, and the journey to share it is best completed together. Would you like to help us collect and share knowledge about this topic? Learn about contributing to the Triangle Cause Wiki.

Keep in touch

Sign up for our newsletter to hear about volunteer opportunities and campaigns.