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Have you ever seen a rare and strange, but beautiful creature at your workplace or local health service? Does she (90% of these creatures are female!) carry a guitar, a basket of enticing looking instruments, equipment and technology? Is she quick to smile, and does she have a warm and friendly demeanour towards staff, clients, carers and other community members? If you have seen this fascinating creature, congratulations! You have encountered the rare Registered Music Therapist, or RMT.


In Australia, RMTs have been around since the early 1980s, following the formation of the national governing body the Australian Music Therapy Association (AMTA) in 1975 and the establishment of the first Australian training course at the University of Melbourne in 1978. At last count, there are just over 580 RMTs in Australia. Music therapy is practiced in over 20 countries internationally (see the World Federation for Music Therapy), forming a group of over 15000 allied health professionals who use the benefits and properties of music to enhance the health care they provide to a variety of clientele around the world. They are what is known collectively as arts-based therapists, alongside other professions such as art therapy and drama therapy, a sub-set of allied health. Music therapy in Australia is a self-regulated profession, and, together with other allied health disciplines such as occupational therapy, social work, speech pathology and psychology,  helps make up Allied Health Professions Australia (AHPA), the peak national organisation for allied health professions.


RMTs work in a wide variety of health, community and education settings across the country. Every children’s hospital in Australia provides music therapy, as do many special schools, mental health services, aged care communities, rehabilitation facilities and community health centres.


RMTs use music its properties to help form strong therapeutic relationships, from which clients and patients can experience growth and change. Music therapy can positively impact areas of cognitive, physical, behavioural, communication, neurological and social needs of people from all ages groups, walks of life and experience. No musical skill or experience is required to participate in and benefit from music therapy.


There are currently two universities in Australia that offer training in music therapy. They both offer a Masters level entry program into the profession, in addition to research Masters and PhD courses in music therapy. If you or someone you know is interested in studying music therapy, please contact the University of Melbourne, or Western Sydney University for further information.


Music therapy can be a beneficial addition to the treating team when a patient or client is having trouble expressing themselves using words, can’t find the right motivation to complete repetitive physical exercises, or isn’t making the expected or desired progress in more traditional therapies, for example. Music therapy is of course a primary therapy, and there are also many great reasons to co-treat with a Registered Music Therapist! Research in music therapy shows benefits for many populations, including the areas of depression, schizophrenia, autism, palliative care, oncology, NICU, rehabilitation, aged care and many more.

If you or someone you know would like to talk with or make a referral to an RMT, please contact the AMTA at [email protected] or use their ‘Find an RMT’ feature on their website.

Allied Health professional and keen to get access to more info, resources, freebies, contacts? Click here to check out our FREE DIRECTORY!

About the Author

Natalie is a clinical supervisor, mental health professional and Registered Music Therapist with close to two decades of experience in healthcare. To find out more, or get in touch with Natalie, visit her website or contact 0424 464 486 or [email protected].

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