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An Intro to Music Therapy & Mental Health

What is Music Therapy? According to the American Music Therapy Association, Music Therapy is “the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish (non-musical) individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional.” In a mental health context some of these goals include:

  • Promoting wellness

  • Stress management

  • Identifying, expressing and processing emotions

  • Interrupting and reframing negative thoughts

  • Distress tolerance and emotion regulation

  • Improving memory and concentration

  • Decreasing vocal dysphoria

  • And many more!

Frequent misconceptions about Music Therapy include the assumption that, in order to benefit from it, one needs to have some formal training or significant experience as a musician. Good news is that this is false! Additionally, all styles of music can be used. Yes, that includes heavy metal, classical music, rap and hip hop, country, the new Taylor Swift album and everything in between. Really, the only requirement is that you enjoy music in some way, shape or form.

As a board certified music therapist working in mental health, examples of interventions I frequently use include songwriting, mindfulness meditations with music, listening to music, playlist building, lyric analysis, singing and/or vocal exercises and using songs or chants to help remember and reinforce various skills. However, each and every session is collaborative in nature and is tailored to fit individual goals, music preferences, comfort level, and prior musical experience.

Are you still curious? Do you have additional questions? Learn more at!


Kim Johnson, LMHC, MT-BC, is a licensed mental health counselor (LMHC) and board certified music therapist (MT-BC) who graduated with her master’s from Lesley University in 2017. She has experience with adults and adolescents in group private practice and community mental health settings. The levels of care she has worked in are outpatient, with both individual and group therapy and in partial hospital programs for mental health and substance use disorders. Additionally, she has had intensive training in dialectical behavioral therapy and cognitive processing therapy for PTSD.

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