Are all music therapists entertainers? No, but some are. Are all entertainers music therapists? No, but some are.

My experience~ I’ve found that especially when working with groups of older adults, misconceptions about music therapy may arise from by-standers, staff people, and/or family members. And for good reason. Music is fun. Music makes you laugh and smile. Music tugs the heart strings. Not to mention, a therapist who is highly skilled at gaining rapport quickly with the client may appear to be “entertaining.”

The difference~ While some music therapists are professional performers as well (We’re quite a talented bunch!), when providing music therapy, he/she uses music as the tool to address client-specific goals. Here are 7 differences between music therapists and entertainers.

A Music therapist ~

  1. Uses research-based music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship ( American Music Therapy Association, 2010).
  2. Focuses on the client. Music therapists purposefully create an environment suitable to healing the client and serving the physical, emotional, social, spiritual, and/or cognitive needs of the client.
  3. Assesses the client, designs a treatment plan, utilizes interventions to meet objectives, documents progress, evaluates treatment plan, and modifies the treatment plan according to progress.
  4. Is required to obtain a degree (bachelors, masters, PhD), attend a 6-month internship, and pass a board-certification exam.
  5. Provides service according to the Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics regulated by the American Music Therapy Association in the US.
  6. Typically maintains board certification (MT-BC) through the Certification Board for Music Therapists in the US.
  7. Is a formally trained musician.

An Entertainer ~

  1. May be skilled at gaining rapport with an audience, while no therapeutic relationship or goals are present.
  2. Usually focuses on the audience entertainment. Entertainers perform music in front of an audience for the enjoyment of listening rather than healing.
  3. Does not engage in treatment planning or documentation.
  4. Is not required to obtain any formalized training or degree.
  5. May be a member of one of the several entertainer/musician associations.
  6. May or may not be licensed or certified.
  7. Is not necessarily a formally trained musician, but quite possibly could be an exceptionally talented musician.

Both music therapists and entertainers are often LOVED by their clients and audiences, respectively. There is a place for everyone. I am encouraged when one of my older adult facilities gets a new entertainer. The more music, the better! Music therapists don’t own MUSIC. However, music therapists are experts specifically at facilitating healing and promoting well-being through music interventions.

Have a comment? Throw it down! Would love to hear from you.

Here are some more MythBusters:

#9 Music Therapy is Therapy for Musicians, Right?
#8 Making Music is Just for Kids and Professionals
#7 Drumming is for Hippies Only
#6 Mozart Makes Your Kid a GENIUS
#5 You Either Have Rhythm or You Don’t
#4 Take 2 Bachs, a Bob Dylan, and Call the Music Therapist in the Morning
#2 Kum Ba Yah Campfire Tours
#1 It’s Too Late in Life to Play Music

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