Music Therapy for Beginners


Authored by Joy Allen


Course Code: OMUTH-201

Next semester
starts June 24

12 Weeks

Level 2

Level 2

3-Credit Tuition


Non-Credit Tuition


If you’re passionate about music and passionate about working with others, the perfect career for you would be one that allows you to harness the power of music to improve the lives of others, i.e., a career in music therapy. This course is designed to give you a basic understanding of the profession of music therapy. This includes a history of the profession of music therapy, education and training requirements of music therapists, levels of practice, and music therapy techniques with various clinical populations. You will be introduced to the treatments you will use in a music therapy career, including foundations of designing music-based experiences to address physical, emotional, social, behavioral, and/or spiritual needs of a wide variety of individuals, across clinical and community-based settings.

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By the end of the course, you will be able to:

  • Understand music therapy as a profession, including historical background, current state of the profession, professional organizations, clinical settings served, client populations, and education and training requirements
  • Compare existing music therapy approaches, methods, techniques, and orientations within the field of music therapy
  • Understand and describe the treatment planning process including assessment, treatment implementation, evaluation, and documentation.
  • Explore the research evidence for clinical practice in music therapy
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Lesson 1: Music Therapy: Historical Perspectives

  • Music as a Therapeutic Tool
  • Music as a Lifespan Activity
  • Function of Music
  • Assignment: Personal Connection to Music

Lesson 2: Music Therapy Defined

  • The Need for Defining
  • Working Definitions
  • Virtuous Music Therapist
  • Music Experiences
  • Assignment: Virtuous Music Therapist Worksheet

Lesson 3: Education and Training Requirements

  • History of Music Therapy Education 
  • Professional Music Therapy Associations
  • Musicianship in Music Therapy
  • Advanced and Specialized Clinical Training
  • Assignment: Professional Organizations Resource Assignment/Unit Test I

Lesson 4: Types of Music Experiences

  • Overview of Four Main Methods
  • Recreative Methods in Music Therapy 
  • Creative Methods in Music Therapy 
  • Assignment: Song Affirmations

Lesson 5: Music Therapy Methods (continued)

  • Receptive Methods in Music Therapy
  • Improvisation Methods in Music Therapy
  • Assignment: Unit Test II: Music Therapy Methods

Lesson 6: Therapeutic Process

  • Facets of Music Experiences
  • Relationships
  • Motivation for Change
  • Types of Change
  • Assignment: Choose Population of Choice for Final Project

Lesson 7: Approaches to Music Therapy

  • Areas of Practice
  • Levels of Practice
  • Factors that Influence Clinical Choices 
  • Assignment: Prominent Music Therapists

Lesson 8: Approaches to Music Therapy 

  • Approaches Developed within Music Education and Pedagogy
  • Approaches Reflecting or Based upon Psychological Philosophies, Theories, or Models
  • Approaches based on Biomedical Model
  • Approaches Developed within Music Therapy 
  • Assignment: Unit test: Therapeutic Process and Approaches to Therapy

Lesson 9: Treatment Planning

  • Overview of the Treatment Process
  • Referral 
  • Assessment
  • Assignment: Narrative Assessment 

Lesson 10: Treatment Planning, part 2 

  • Designing a Music Therapy Session
  • Goals and Objectives 
  • Designing
  • Interprofessional Collaboration
  • Assignment: Unit Test: Music Therapy Treatment Planning

Lesson 11: Research in Music Therapy

  • Purpose of Research
  • Types of Research
  • Music Therapy Journals
  • Literature Searches
  • Assignment: Identify Five Articles for Final Project

Lesson 12: Professional Topics

  • Emerging Areas of Practice 
  • Reimbursement
  • Advocacy
  • Assignment: Final Project 


Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements 

Prerequisite Courses, Knowledge, and/or Skills
This course does not have any prerequisites.

Note: Students will have access to free digital versions of both of these texts through the Berklee Online library resources during the semester:

Student Deals
After enrolling, be sure to check out our Student Deals page for various offers on software, hardware, and more. Please contact with any questions.

General Course Requirements

Below are the minimum requirements to access the course environment and participate in Live Classes. Please make sure to also check the Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements section above, and ensure your computer meets or exceeds the minimum system requirements for all software needed for your course. 

Mac Users

PC Users

All Users

  • Latest version of Google Chrome
  • Zoom meeting software
  • Webcam
  • Speakers or headphones
  • External or internal microphone
  • Broadband Internet connection


Joy Allen

Author & Instructor

Joy Allen is chair of the Music Therapy Department at Berklee College of Music. She is an accomplished clinician, supervisor, researcher, teacher, and administrator with extensive experience in psychological health, pain management, and the family system. Allen has expertise working with children, adolescents, and adults with mental health issues, applying a family systems approach. She is particularly passionate about working with individuals and families facing chronic illnesses, including cancer. Her current research interests include quantitative analysis of the effects of music therapy on the psychological health of medical patients, guided imagery and music with medical patients, and medical music therapy theory development and efficacy. Joy comes to Berklee from Loyola University in New Orleans, where she served as coordinator of music therapy and associate professor.

What's Next?

When taken for credit, Music Therapy for Beginners can be applied towards the completion of these related programs:


Contact our Academic Advisors by phone at 1-866-BERKLEE (U.S.), 1-617-747-2146 (INT'L), or by email at

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