How to Become a Music Psychologist

What is Music Psychology?

Music psychology is an academic discipline, not to be confused with music therapy. It is a highly specialized area of study that focuses on how music impacts people. Music psychologists investigate why so much time, money, and energy is expended creating and listening to music as well. The everyday music listening habits of people are examined, as are the musical traditions held by various peoples around the world. Music psychology is also concerned with the manner in which people gain the ability to produce music, and how those abilities allow people to form personal and group identities. How individuals react to music on an emotional level is also of great interest to music psychologists.

People that practice music psychology unsurprisingly combine the underpinnings of both psychology and musicology to carry out their studies. Some music psychologists work in a lab setting to explore the manners in which the brain is affected by music. Researchers in music psychology might examine which part of the brain is responsible for interpreting tone, rhythm, or understanding lyrics. They might also explore long-term impacts of music on the brain, such as reduced risk of dementia or increased language skills. Other music psychologists work in an academic setting to explore the positive impacts of music education on the development of school children. In this capacity, music psychologists look for links between the study of music and improved academic skills, such as greater abstract reasoning skills and improved math and reading test scores.

As a field of study, music psychology did not emerge until the latter half of the twentieth century. It is not yet an officially recognized division of the American Psychological Association (APA). However, the APA does publish a journal for the psychological study of music, Psychomusicology: Music, Mind, and the Brain. As a discipline, music psychology has developed by drawing strong influence from other areas of psychological study, particularly cognition, perception, neuropsychology, and human development, among others.

What Does a Music Psychologist Do??

Music psychology is a career that is said to come with lots of benefits to those who wish to work with people experiencing disorders or disabilities. Music psychologists make life much better for individuals, including children who have impairments. Some of the groups of people that benefit from the services of a music psychologist are:

  • People with neurological challenges
  • People suffering from learning and developmental challenges
  • People with speech and hearing disabilities
  • Adults and children with psychiatric problems

A music psychologist will work in a team with other professional with the overall goal of alleviating the suffering and difficulties of a patient as much as possible.

The overall work of a music psychologist revolves around the therapeutic use of music in approaching the challenges of a given patient. Such areas as learning, social, physical and psychological challenges are handled through music. First, the professional has to assess the situation of the patient. One then goes ahead to prescribe the musical treatment that would be fit for his/her condition. This may include such activities as the creation, singing or listening to music. When the patient is actively involved in music, one can then transfer the benefit reaped from it to other aspects of life. This is especially an important course of treatment for people with communication challenges. It will offer motivation so that one can handle well the demands of treatment and consequently give an avenue or emotional expression.

Where Does a Music Psychologist Work?

  • Mental health agencies
  • Day care facilities
  • Rehabilitation centers
  • Nursing homes
  • Schools
  • Psychiatric centers
  • Private practice
  • Oncology treatment centers
  • stress management clinics

What are the Education Requirements to Become a Music Psychologist?

To have the knowledge necessary for a career in his field, one needs to have an intensive study combining music, psychology and biological subjects. For undergraduate study, one would go through such subjects as music, psychology, biology, social and behavioral studies. Studies in musical therapy and disability would also need to be learnt. These of course will also have to be given a practical dimension. This is because a student is supposed to learn how to examine the musical needs of patients. Hence, one will be expected to serve in a learning capacity in the community centers that treat people with disabilities or social problems. Sometimes, students get practical experience from clinics on college campus.

Usually, people who have a different degree are allowed to continue with the degree equivalency program. The student need not get a second baccalaureate degree; by simply clearing the necessary coursework, one is good to go.

To proceed to get a master’s degree, one would need to have a baccalaureate degree; in music psychology or a successful equivalency program. Of course there is diversity in requirements depending on the school that one wishes to proceed for this degree.

What Skills and Qualities are Needed for a Music Psychologist?

  • An interest in helping others feel empowered enough to improve their lives.
  • Good communication and interpersonal skills; as this person works consistently with people, a successful music psychologist is ideally a person that interacts easily with others.
  • Creative and innovative
  • A passion for music
  • Patience is needed in huge reserves for the simple reason that one will be working with people experiencing lots of difficulties.

One needs to gain familiarity with working with people experiencing such challenges as may be handled by a music psychologist. This can be done by volunteering to help in nursing homes so that the ability to interact with these persons is acquired even before delving into this study.

What is the Job Outlook for Music Psychologists?

With the acknowledgement of the critical role that the music psychologist plays in the treatment of people with disabilities, it goes without say that there are many opportunities for people who graduate in this field. Hospices, anger and stress management centers as well as oncology care centers are some of the places where such a person can get employed.

Like with other psychologist branches, the demand for music psychologists is set to increase. Thus, people who pursue training in this field are not likely to miss employment.

What is the Salary of a Music Psychologist?

According to the American Music Therapy Association, music therapists, in 2011, earned between $20,000 – $188,000 per year. The average annual salary in 2011 was $48,066. Of course factor like organization worked for and the state all play a huge role in determining this figure.

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