Music Therapy Philosophy and Definition by Kaitlin Emmert, Music Therapy Student/Intern

KaitlinHi all,

I’m happy to share a guest post authored by Kaitlin Emmert, a music therapy student/intern from the University of Evansville studying under the guidance of Dr. Kathleen Murphy.  Based on her experiences and education, Kaitlin shares her philosophy and thoughts towards defining music therapy. Thank you Kaitlin for sharing your ideas on this very important topic!

I believe music is uniquely only adequately defined through experience of music itself.  A definition in words cannot contain it, as it is a mixture of sound, silence, expression, emotion, both the physical and the non-physical.  Because of its incredible characteristics, music is able to touch all aspects of a person:  body, heart, mind, and soul.  This is why I believe it is perfect for therapy.  Music is not simply a cause for an effect or groups of sounds and words passing through time or even simply a beautiful melody.  Music, by its very nature—a complex yet simple one—benefits people in several ways at once.  Isolating a problem may lead to a risk of being blinded to the person as a whole; this is why I believe it is important to treat the entire person—body, mind, and soul—in therapy.  Music is capable of doing just that.  Whatever the goal in therapy, the music is present and can touch, and therefore benefit, all aspects of a person, from the problem and beyond.  My belief that music can be present in all things shows through in my person-centered, humanistic approach to music therapy.  I recognize the importance of being aware of and using aspects from other approaches, including cognitive, behavioral, and psychodynamic.  However, I believe a combination of these […]

Ways of Thinking Musically in Music Therapy

Hi all, this is a throw-back-Sunday blog entry! This entry, written by Dr. Brian Abrams, was originally posted on 2/2/12. Based on the dialogue the developed as a result of my previous blog entry, I feel that this entry is a perfect continuation regarding the topic of “working-in” and “using” music. 

Ways of Thinking Musically in Music Therapy

In November 2011, at the annual conference of the American Music Therapy Association in Atlanta, Georgia, Dr. Kenneth Bruscia, the William W. Sears Distinguished Lecture Series Speaker, delivered an outstanding lecture entitled “Ways of Thinking in Music Therapy,” in which he examined different perspectives on understanding the practices and purposes of music therapy.

Dr. Bruscia, who was the most central mentor in the development of my professional identity as a music therapist, has always inspired others to think deeply about themselves and their work. For me, his guidance always prompted the question: What makes the work of a music therapist special and unique? Or, in other words: What differentiates it from other disciplines and professional practices? … or … How can we “locate” it, conceptually, as a specific construct? This was more than a mere intellectual exercise–it held a certain sense of urgency (at least for me) in understanding and advocating for the non-replicable value of music therapy in serving clients and the public via our modality.

For me, these questions were never adequately answered by considering the procedural components of music therapy alone, as popularly described. For example, it was not merely the use of music in a health promotion process that defined the distinctive essence of music therapy […]

Presentation at Weill Cornell Ctr for Autism: Improvisational Music Therapy & Practice Research

DIR-MT MalletsHI all,

Last Monday I had an opportunity to lecture to the research, clinical, and medical team at Weill Cornell Ctr for Autism & Developing Brain on developmentally-based improvisational music therapy clinical practice and research. It was an honor to have the opportunity to share the IMCAP-ND assessment tool as well as the MT treatment & research going on at The Rebecca Ctr for Music Therapy with some of autism’s leading experts. In regards to IMCAP-ND, is was especially gratifying to receive nice feedback from  co-creators/developers of the ADOS, Dr. Catherine Lord and Dr. Somer Bishop. Following the presentation we had a nice discussion regarding our involvement in the international TIME-A ASD/MT research project as well as the the current testing of the IMCAP-ND that will be looked at in conjunction with ADOS outcomes.

if you’re interested, i’ll be posting more specifics of the presentation along with the  powerpoint on my blog.


On October 11th, along with 5 of my colleagues (Gerry Costa, Brian Abrams, Suzanne Sorel, Jill Lucente, and Gabriela Ortiz),  I will be presenting an introduction and overview of the IMCAP-ND .  For more information CLICK HERE . Also, on October 29th I will be presenting with Dr. Gerry Costa at the annual ICDL conference. For more information CLICK HERE. Finally, I will be presenting on the IMCAP-ND at the upcoming American Music Therapy Association (AMTA) conference in Jacksonville, Florida on November 23rd with my colleague, Dr. Stella Manne (Director Faculty Research at Molloy College). CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION .

Please note that all IMCAP-ND presentations are not formal training courses and are only intended to provide participants with an overview […]

Autism & Music Therapy Research Study Recruiting for September!

RebeccaAustismFlyerThe Rebecca Center for Music Therapy is moving into its 2nd year of the TIME-A Autism and Music Therapy Research Study. NOW RECRUITING FOR SEPTEMBER 2013!

Do You Know a Child with Autism?
The Rebecca Center for Music Therapy at Molloy College is recruiting children with
autism spectrum disorder (ASD) to participate in a research study investigating
developmental trajectories and intervention. The main focus of the study is to discover
whether music therapy is an effective early intervention for children with ASD.
This study is the first well-controlled effectiveness study and largest randomized
controlled trial on clinical interventions for autism to date. It is funded by the Research
Council of Norway and builds upon a collaboration of seven countries worldwide.
This study will include no-cost sessions and comprehensive diagnostic and cognitive

Who is Eligible?
• Children diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder
• Between the ages of 4 and 7 years old
• Limited or no music therapy experience

The study is being conducted at The Rebecca Center for Music Therapy at Molloy College.
If you have any questions or if you would like to consider your child to participate in the study
please contact Laura DeGennaro or Dr. John
Carpente, USA Research Site Manager at

Click here for a downloadabe PDF of research details


Stay tuned for updates on future research, publication updates, and upcoming presentations at Weill Cornell Ctr for Autism, ICDL/DIR International Conference, Rebecca Ctr for Music Therapy 1-day Sym, and AMTA!

Thanks so much for reading!



FacebookDevelopmental Music Health

Twitter: DrJohnMTBC

New Assessment Publication: IMCAP-ND: A Clinical Manual


1-Day Music Therapy Conference on Assessment & Treatment Planning in Relationship-based Work

DIR-MT MalletsHi all,

For those of you interested in learning more about music therapy assessment and treatment planning in relationship-based work, The Rebecca Center for Music Therapy at Molloy College is offering a 1-day conference on October 11th, 2013: Considering Musical Dimensions in Relationship-Based Work: New Directions in Music Therapy Treatment Planning. This affordable conference will be cost $40.00 per person ($15.00 for students) and will include: six (6) presentations, a continental breakfast, lunch, and 8 CMTE credits!


Considering Musical Dimensions in Relationship-Based Work: New Directions in Music Therapy Treatment Planning

October 11, 2013


Molloy College (Suffolk Center)


 This 1-day conference will explore ideas on understanding musical dimensions in relationship-based work within the context of the Individual Music-Centered Assessment Profile for Neurodevelopmental Disorders (IMCAP-ND).

 Topics to be covered include:

  • An overview of IMCAP-ND
  • Early childhood and mental health
  • Principles of Music-Centered, Relationship-based Music Therapy Assessment
  • Clinical use of IMCAP-ND’s Scale I: Musical Emotional Assessment rating Scale
  • Clinical goal planning within a music-centered and humanistic framework
  • A microanalysis self-assessment of the music therapist through the use of IMCAP-ND

We invite you to review the agenda below and take a look at the outstanding faculty available for this conference.  You can receive a total of 8 CMTE credits for attending this conference.

 1) IMCAP-ND:  A Developmental Relationship-based Framework for Assessing and Examining Musical-play interactions in Clinical Work

John A. Carpente, Ph.D., MT-BC, LCAT

2) The Musicality of the Infant-Parent Relationship and the Foundational Experiences Needed for Mental Health and Peaceful Societies

Keynote Presenter, Gerry Costa, Ph.D.

 3) Understanding our Clients as only Music Therapists Can: Principles of Music-Centered, Relationship-based Music […]

By |July 7th, 2013|IMCAP-ND, Music Therapy Assessment, Music Therapy Research, Music-Centered Music Therapy, Musical play, Relationship in Music Therapy, Uncategorized, Upcoming Events|Comments Off on 1-Day Music Therapy Conference on Assessment & Treatment Planning in Relationship-based Work

Registration is now open for our APRIL 8th 2011 Arts-based Qualitative Research Conference

The Rebecca Center for Music Therapy at Molloy College Presents:

The Other Side of the Coin:  Artistic and Humanistic Evidence in Relationship-Based Therapy Work

 A One-day Conference for Creative Arts Therapists, Health Care Professionals, Artists, Musicians, students, and those involved in the Humanities

Friday, April 8, 2011 ● Wilbur Arts Center, Rockville Centre campus

Conference Purpose and Audience

The purpose of this conference is to educate and showcase evidence-based practice in the arts from a humanistic perspective. This conference is designed for Creative Arts Therapists, Health Care Professionals, Artists, Musicians, students, those involved in the Humanities; as well as anyone who is interested in evidence-based qualitative research in relationship-based therapy.

Conference Description

Natural science has long been the primary means by which to validate the relationship-based therapies. Positivist principles of control, predictability, reduction of people and human phenomena to standardized measures and quantitative variables have long been considered the “gold standard” for appraising the value of any given therapeutic modality. With the growing acceptance of Qualitative Research and mixed-methods studies in healthcare, along with a movement toward arts-based research in health disciplines, what counts as meaningful evidence for therapy involving human relationship has come under serious scrutiny. While certain science-based paradigms have exclusive capacity to validate these forms of therapy, this is not the only viable perspective. Just as medicine and science offer their own forms of rigor in addressing measures of evidence for health-promoting practices, the arts and humanities likewise offer various forms of rigor, expanding traditional views of medicine and science. These qualitative, arts-based approaches, represent a uniquely valuable contribution to the therapeutic community. This one-day event will address these areas from various points […]

What informs treatment and clinical interventions? Past or Present?

Abstract: Research on the Effectiveness of Music Therapy & DIR/Floortime with Children with Autism (does this count as evidence? why? why not?)





The Effectiveness of Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy within a Developmental, Individual-Differences, Relationship-based (DIR®)/Floortime™ Framework to the Treatment of Children with Autism

This study was concerned with the effectiveness of Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy (NRMT) carried out within a Developmental, Individual-Difference, Relationship-based (DIR®)/Floortime™ framework in addressing the individual needs of children with autism. In NRMT, the child is an active participant in the music making process, playing various instruments that require no formal training. The therapist’s task is to improvise music built around the child’s musical responses, reactions, responses, and/or movements to engage him or her in a musical experience that will facilitate musical relatedness, communication, socialization, and awareness.

The DIR® model provides a comprehensive framework for assessing, understanding, and treating the child. It centers on helping the child master the building blocks of relating, communicating, and thinking through the formulation of relationships via interactive play, using Floortime™ (a systematic way of working with the children to help them reach their developmental potential) (Greenspan & Weider, 1998).

This study sought to determine the effectiveness of NRMT in meeting musical goals specifically established for each individual child, and to conclude if progress in musical goals paralleled progress in non-musical (DIR®) goals.

In the present study, NRMT and DIR® were used in tandem. NRMT was used as the

primary treatment approach, and focused primarily on musical goals and the establishment of musical relationships between therapists and child. DIR® was used as the primary means of conceptualizing and assessing the child’s strengths and needs in nonmusical modes of interaction and relationship, and evaluating […]


Why it is that modern science is so occupied with large statistical studies, and is not at all invested in the qualitative aspects of working with one person and or phenomena at a time? All of the hoopla with evidence-based practice, which I feel is extremely important for the future of the field of music therapy and health, seems, to me, to be de-emphasizing “clinical-based practice”- which I’ll informally define as a practice being informed by the process clinical of experience. How many studies how you read in which the research is more about numbers then people, and in turn, it loses sight of the core deficits of a particular diagnosis that it is claiming to treat?

To that end, I’ve just returned from giving a presentation at a prominent autism organization in NYC in which I discussed the effectiveness of integrating the DIR Model and interactive music therapy with children with ASD. I used video excerpts from sessions to illustrate the concepts and to demonstrate the social-emotional gains that each child experienced through their therapy process. The President of this particular organization, who was in tears, asks, “where’s the evidence to support this approach?” He continues to say that, “although your work is valuable and amazing, individual cases can not contribute to science. We need the evidence.” I replied with a wonderful quote by the world famous neuroscientist, V.S. Ramachandran, “I believe that individual cases have everything to contribute to science. I asked him, “Imagine I were to present a pig to a skeptical scientist, insisting it could speak English, and then waved my hand, and the pig spoke English. Would it really make […]