3 Traits You Have to Have to Be a Music Therapist

By August 31, 2016Clinical Insights

Not all music therapists are the same – that goes without saying. However, there are definitely some characteristics that lend themselves to being a great music therapist. Here are some we think are really important.

And just a note, this is definitely not an exhaustive list!


It seems obvious, but it’s actually not that simple. In being empathetic, we are trying to experience what our clients experience, but remain separate at the same time. To put it another way, we try to inhabit their world for a time, but we shouldn’t find an apartment and stay there!

Photo by Jake Thacker

PC Jake Thacker


Music therapy is goal-driven and we want to make things happen! However, when we are in this mode of thinking we tend to set unrealistic expectations for our clients. That can leave them feeling unsuccessful and unmotivated. We have to remember that lasting change often happens more slowly.

I should mention that being patient also includes being patient with yourself. (Especially as a student or beginning music therapist!) There will be times when you will find yourself paling in comparison to the superstar music therapist you aspire to be. No one expects you to be a zen master, but giving yourself time to learn and grow puts less pressure on you. And less pressure means less stress!

7 Mistakes for mobileFlexibility

Great music therapists are open to change and are constantly looking for ways to meet clients “where they’re at”. This can mean different things.

Flexibility could be something as big as scrapping a whole session when you walk in because your clients’ have way more (or way less) energy than you anticipated. It can also mean something as small as honoring a song request a client makes mid-session or accepting an off-the-wall song lyric suggestion.

This is how we grow as music therapists, and our clients are teaching us all the time.

Three traits for music therapyWhew! Now that we’ve gone over those, some of you might be thinking, “Wow, I have all of those traits!” If so, congratulations! That’s awesome!

Then again, there might be others who are wondering if they are patient enough or flexible enough. Let me reassure you: these qualities are things that you can cultivate in yourself if you so choose. Like our clients, we can always change.

Are you considering a fulfilling and rewarding career in music therapy? If you’re trying to figure out where to start, you might want to check out this resource we’ve put together for you. It’s called the Music Therapy Source School Guide.

Till next time!




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