How To Become A Music Therapist

There are 4 steps and several possible paths to become a music therapist in Canada. Many people are curious about the profession and surprised to hear how involved the process is. Similarly, it is relatively unknown that we have a National Certifying Body. Although the education options in Canada have evolved over the years. Here is an overview of how to become a music therapist in Canada in 2022.

Step 1: Post-Secondary Music Therapy Programs

Firstly, all Certified Music Therapists (MTA’s) have an undergraduate, graduate, and/or doctorate degree in music therapy.  In Canada, there are currently 6 universities with educational programs recognized by the CAMT. Each program has different requirements and training but all lead to becoming a certified music therapist.

Acadia University

Location: Wolfville, Nova Scotia
Degree Offered: Bachelor of Music Therapy (BMT), Certificate in Music Therapy (CMT)
Head of Program: Paul Lauzon
Application Requirements: Secondary School Diploma for the BMT, Undergraduate Music Degree and Psychology Prerequisites for the CMT, Audition and Interview for both programs

Canadian Mennonite University

Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba
Degree Offered: Bachelor of Music Therapy (BMT), two-year or four-year option
Head of Program: Lee-Anne Dowsett, Michelle Yaciuk
Application Requirements: Secondary School Diploma for 4-Year BMT, Undergraduate Music Degree and Psychology Prerequisites for 2-Year BMT, Audition and Interview for both programs

Capilano University

Location: Vancouver, British Columbia
Degree Offered: Bachelor of Music Therapy (BMT)
Head of Program: Stephen Williams
Application Requirements: Secondary School Diploma, Audition and Interview

Concordia University

Location: Montreal Quebec
Degree Offered: Graduate Diploma in Music Therapy, Master’s in Creative Arts Therapies – Music Therapy (Online)
Head of Program: Cynthia Bruce, Guylaine Vaillancourt, Laurel Young
Application Requirements: Bachelor’s Degree with courses in Music/Psychology/Music Therapy for the Graduate Diploma, plus Music Therapy Internship for the Master’s

University of Toronto

Location: Toronto, Ontario
Degree Offered: Music and Health Sciences (MMus, MA, PhD)
Head of Program: Amy Clements-Cortes, Corene Hurt-Thaut, Michael Thaut
Application Requirements: Bachelor of Music for MMus, Bachelor of Music or Music Therapy for MA, Master’s degree for PhD

Wilfrid Laurier University

Location: Waterloo, ON
Degree Offered: Bachelor of Music Therapy (BMT), Master of Music Therapy (MMT)
Head of Program: Heidi Ahonen
Application Requirements: Music and Psychology undergraduate courses (completed in years 1 & 2) for the BMT, completed undergraduate degree in Music Therapy for the 1 year MMT or a related degree for 2 year MMT

Step 2: Music Therapy Internship

All music therapists in Canada must complete a 1,000 hour clinical internship. During this 8-12 month period, interns work under the supervision of a certified music therapist. Supervisors complete training to make sure they can properly support the development of music therapy interns. Some internships offer experience in a variety of client settings while others focus on one experience. Interns are encouraged to pursue sites that will suit their educational and career goals.  Some of the programs above incorporate internship into their degrees, while other trainees will complete their internship hours after graduation.

Step 3: Certification Exam

Once completing all coursework and internship hours, the next step is to write a board exam. This exam is administered by the Certification Board for Music Therapists.  The certification exam evaluates a music therapist’s knowledge on music, client populations, clinical practice, and ethics therefore ensuring they are ready to practice music therapy. Music therapy candidates who pass the exam are certified to work in both Canada and the United States.

Step 4: Statement of Adherence

Lastly, proof that all the above steps are completed is sent to the Canadian Association of Music Therapists (CAMT). Then candidates officially become a Certified Music Therapist (MTA)! However like any health care profession, music therapists have a Continuing Education Requirements, Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice. These are essential to maintain your status as a MTA.

Optional Step 5: Additional Training or Certifications

Additionally, many music therapists pursue extra training or certifications after becoming certified. For example, Neurologic Music Therapy (NMT) uses standardized evidenced based techniques to support speech, cognition, and physical goals. This exciting work uses music and rhythm to increase neuroplasticity and as a result create new neural connections. Many music therapists are also eligible to register with Psychotherapy (or equivalent) Colleges such as the CRPO in Ontario. However, not all provinces have regulated psychotherapy yet. But, it is likely this will be the case in the near future.

You might wonder, “Can’t I just become a music therapist without doing all this work first?” In the same way that training is necessary for other allied healthcare professionals such as doctors or psychologists, the above requirements ensure that the profession of music therapy is consistent across Canada and that we provide the most help with the least harm possible to clients.  So if you are working with a team member from the Music Therapy Services of Simcoe County, you can trust that we know what we’re doing and have lots of resources in our toolkit!

By: Kimiko Suzuki, MTA & Heidi Flynn RP, MTA