Learning and Developing via Relational Musical-Play Experiences in Music Therapy

frank and cimdy4frank and cimdy4frank and cimdy4williampic-2Hi all,

This blog post includes some immediate and brief thoughts regarding the clinical rationale of back-and-forth relational music making between client and therapist. In addition, it touches on the importance of  contextualizing music therapy experiences within a relationship-based framework, as well as emphasizing  the significance of affective-based interactions.

Several moths ago I presented to a group of parents, therapists, and educators. During the talk I displayed a clinical video excerpt illustrating a continuous flow of co-active and related music making between the therapist and client. During the interaction, the client, an autistic 8 year-old boy who displays difficulty in sustaining self-regulation and with challenges in the area of sustained engagement and interaction, sits in his chair and musically participates with the therapist via social referencing and non-verbal, but tonal, vocalizations. The therapist, improvising a short melodic phrase  (playing guitar and voice) pauses the music following the 3rd beat of the phrase. The client, referencing the therapist via a glance and a bewildered look on his face, follows the musical pause by glancing in the direction of the therapist on the 4th beat of the phrase. The therapist interprets the glance as a musical response and “turns the phrase around,”pausing after the 3rd beat. The client again references the therapist with a glance, but this time offers a smile accompanied by a tonal vocalization. The therapist alters the musical phrase by increasing tempo and articulating the melody vocally in a staccato manner. The client […]

1 WEEK left for Early bird Registration for IMCAP Course, Columbia MD


1 week remaining for EARLY BIRD Registration for IMCAP-ND CMTE Course at Howard Community College (Ends on April 15th!)

Are you interested in learning more about working within a Developmental Relationship-based Music Therapy Model? Here’s an opportunity to do so while earning 35 CMTE Credits! Click HERE for more information!

You will expand your knowledge on how to:

  • Create musical experiences that target specific musical areas that deal with
    • A) Social-Emotional Skills
    • B) Cognitive and Perceptual Skills
    • C) Preferences, Efficiency, Arousal Levels
  • Observe, assess, and score target responses within the context of relational musical-play
  • Create and write individualized goals and treatment plans
  • Communicate assessment findings to caregivers and healthcare professionals
  • Gain a deeper understanding of your musical tendencies and habitual responses as a musician and music therapist

By registering for this course you will receive complimentry Developmental, Relationship-based Music Therapy course materials (as  well an opportunity for discounted supervision/coaching): 

  • Receive 50% off IMCAP-based reflective supervision for up to 5 supervision sessions
  • A 10-pack of IMCAP-ND Rating Scale Booklets
  • IMCAP-ND Work Guide that includes:
  • Musical resources for the music therapist
  • Quality of Interaction rating chart
  • Procedural work phase check list
  • Clinical sample of IMCAP-ND rating scores (Scales I, II, & III)
  • IMCAP-ND goal bank
  • Clinical techniques guidelines (procedural phases and music domain areas)

The IMCAP-ND 2-day CMTE course with post-course assignments provides an opportunity to earn 35 CMTE Credits. This course will be held at Howard Community College in Columbia, MD on May 2nd and 3rd.

Click HERE to register!



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 […]

From Emotion to Comprehension: Implications for Music Therapy?

IMG_0686Hi all, after a recent discussion with colleagues regarding the the lens in which we, as therapists, assess and work with client’s specifically in the areas of affect or emotion and cognition, several questions emerged that I like to ask the good folks who follow and read this blog. I would love to hear what others think.

So, here goes::

1) is it possible for the music therapists to assess emotion or affect through a cognitive lens?

2) Is it possible to assess affect or emotion without context of an emotional experience?

3) Is it possible to assess cognition without considering emotional or effective processes? (in other words, can cognition be assessed as an isolated domain area?)

4) If any of the above are answered with “yes,” does that imply that emotion can be “taught”‘ through cognitive processes ( such as teaching a child the emotion of anger through a song that includes the theme of anger, or via a photo of an angry face).

5) Can emotion be assessed and fostered or “learned” via relational experiences that embody emotion or affect (in other words, “learning affect or emotion, through and in actual experiences)? Thoughts?

In thinking about I began to think about a terrific chapter written by Dr. Stanley Greenspan , The Affect Diathesis Hypothesis.  The chapter is taken from the ground breaking book: The First Idea: How Symbols, Language, & Intelligence Evolved from Our Primate Ancestors to Modern HumansAlthough Greenspan contextualizes that particular chapter within autism spectrum disorders, he is basing his theory on typical child development.

Thanks for reading, folks!



Individual Music-Centered Assessment Profile for Neurodevelopmental Disorders (IMCAP-ND)

piano playingHi all,

I am happy and excited to say that the Individual Music-Centered Assessment Profile for Neurodevelopmental Disorders (IMCAP-ND) will be available this coming May! It’s gone through several revisions  and has been clinically tested since I first posted information regarding its content. I want to thank all of the folks who have inquired about the IMCAP-ND. I really appreciate your interest and support and hope that this assessment tool will be a useful resource in your clinical practice.

For those of you who are interested, but are not familiar with the IMCAP-ND, the The Individual Music-Centered Assessment Profile for Neurodevelopmental Disorders (IMCAP-ND) is a method for observing, listening, and rating musical emotional responses, cognition and perception, preferences, perceptual efficiency, and self-regulation in individuals with neurodevelopmental disorders. Within musical-play, and a developmental and relationship-based framework, the IMCAP-ND focuses on how  clients perceive, interpret, and create music with the therapist as the first step in formulating clinical goals and strategies for working with clients.

The IMCAP-ND includes three easy to use rating scales that evaluate clients at various developmental levels and chronological ages from children to adults.  In addition, it provides the therapist with musical procedures and protocols as well as guiding principles for facilitating the in-session assessment process.

The IMCAP-ND clinical manual includes music-based protocols, supportive intervention procedures, rating scales, intake forms, and an assessment/evaluation report template. The IMCAP-ND may be used:

  • to develop clinical goals and treatment plan
  • to musically guide the therapist in working with the client
  • to communicate information to parents and healthcare professionals
  • as pre- and posttest measures to evaluate client progress

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for IMCAP-ND training dates!

All the best,


Guest Blogger, Suzannah Scott-Moncrieff writes on Relationship in Music

Hello Friends,

It is my please to introduce my colleague and friend, Suzannah Scott-Moncrief, MA, MT-BC, LCAT. Thanks so much Suzannah for sharing your knowledge and expertise. I really appreciate your contribution to this blog!

As a psychodynamically-oriented music psychotherapist, I am constantly considering the client-therapist relationship, the musical processes that develop between us, and the counter-transferential material that emerges, as a central component in the client’s growth. However, in large part due to my own personal and transformative experiences in Guided Imagery and Music, it turns out that the relationship that I am most interested in right now, is the relationship between the client and the music. The more I work with both active and receptive methods of music therapy, the more I’m convinced that my primary role is to bring a person into a deeper relationship with music. And, as I understand it, the process of coming into relationship with music parallels a client’s very journey toward health.
So, here’s my concern about the assumptions we make about music therapy: In our profession I see a tendency to promote music therapy with the claim that people easily and naturally engage in music experiences. (No doubt we have all experienced that one client who thrives in the music, often in stark contrast to other areas of their lives.) But I would argue that the majority of my clients over the years have struggled to enter into the music with ease. Much of our work consists of making the therapy environment – the relationship, and the experiences – safe enough for the client to engage in some kind of basic way with […]

What’s so special about music therapy anyway?

This blog entry was inspired by a chat that I recently has with a music therapy colleague, which then carried over into a discussion with and occupational speech therapist. I would be interested in knowing your thoughts….

What is indigenous (and intrinsic) to music therapy? What do we offer, as MTs, that is unique and specific to our medium and discipline? And, are we, as MTs, clinically utilizing those very things that are specific to only music and music therapy in our clinical work and writing, such as aesthetics and the relational properties that are unique to music making. Or, are we simply using the byproducts of music?- This would be the equivalent to using a book as a door stop, a sculpture as a paperweight, music as “white noise”, a painting to hide a hole in the wall, etc.

Do we use music as a motivator? Is that unique to MT?

Do we use music because it’s non-threatening (is it really always non-threatening??) way to work with clients? Is being non-threatening really unique to only music therapy?

Do we use music for non-musical goals, such as speech, physical, etc.? is that unique to MT?

Is using music unique to what music has to offer??




How do Music Therapists View Health? Thoughts??????

Hi all,

I just began thinking again about a topic that usually finds its way into my work as a clinician, clinical supervisor and educator: How do music therapists define health? Is health defined in and through the music, in musical terms? if so, what does that mean? How does that help define what we do as therapists? If speech therapists work to “fix” the speech and language of clients, and physical therapists work to “fix” the motoric abilities of clients, do we as music therapists work to “fix” the music of clients? if so, again, are we defining health within musical contexts? For example, when a client expands his ability to be related in music with his therapist, or develops his/her ability to intiate expressive components in his/her drumming (range of dynamics and tempo) while engaged in musical play with his/her therapist is this health? if so, how does health sound? how does pathology sound?

Would’nt it be interesting if there were musical profiles that identified specific client groups? Meaning that pathology could be identitifed through a person’s music. hmmm…again, what does health sound like?


Does the music therapist define health in ways outside of music?  i.e. identifying health in terms of physical, social, behavioral and emotional realms that are outside of music? Is that possible when music and musical interaction embody all of the above?

And finally, in viewing many assessments, it appears that music is generally listed as one of several domains, including social; communication; physical; emotional; etc. Shouldnt music be the only domain? why? why not? I’m thinking that if health is defined outside of music, why is it (music) even assessed? AND/OR , if health is defined musically, why are other domains, outside of music, being assessed? AND, are we even qualified to […]

How do we facilitate back and forth interactions through a wide range of affects?

On behalf of The Rebecca Center for Music Therapy at Molloy College, I would like to thank all of our 400+ fans (on facebook) for following us as we continue this journey of improving the quality of life of children with autism through effective and cutting-edge music therapy interventions. We have been on a mission, and in essence creating a movement through educating and promoting humanistic and developmental interventions that promote initiative, creativity, and high regard for human relationships. We have come to the realization that autism is not a disorder of memory or a disorder of behavior (whatever that means)…it is a disorder of  RELATING AND COMMUNICATING (When I say communication, I mean functional and conversational back and forth signaling between 2 or more individuals- with the INTENT to express and idea, thought, etc.) So, if that’s the case, why is it that most children with autism are being treated with memory-based/behavioral interventions? why? why? why?

If communication and language are based on symbolism, abstract thinking and initiating ideas through a wide range of affects/emotion, how can we facilitate these skills through memorized responses using prompts? Does that make sense? How do you teach a child to initiate ideas if there always being prompted? How do we teach a child to formulate ideas and be symbolic if they are always being provided with the ideas in terms of always being “asked” to do something for something? (“say this,” “do that, ” “good job”) the answer, I feel, is very simple…: the same way we facilitate reciprocal interactions, symbolism and language in typical developing babies/children- through a continuous flow of back and forth interaction! That being said, when I say back and forth interaction I am not […]