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The New Music Therapist’s Handbook

br001_01FSHanser, Suzanne (1999). The New Music Therapist’s Handbook, 2nd Ed. Boston, MA: Berklee Press.

Reviewed by Cochavit Elefant.

Reading the title “The New Music Therapist’s Handbook” two thoughts came to mind. The first was that the “new” (in the title) refers to the beginner music therapist and the second thought, that this is a new handbook for
the contemporary experienced therapist. This duality resolved during the reading of the book.

Hanser offers a data-based approach to music therapy practice. It contains10 stages of treatment planning (one in each chapter). These include: referral, first session, assessment, goals (objectives and target behaviors), observation, music therapy strategies, treatment plan, implementation, evaluation and termination. A solid ground for the basics of music therapy for this kind of approach. The model borrows from the principles of the behavioral science to demonstrate an objective data-based view in music therapy. The model focuses on client-centered approach and tries to assist the therapist in finding the most appropriate and efficacious method when approaching the client.

The New Music Therapist’s Handbook is the second edition version. It has expanded and updated the original text. The book is very organized with good and clear structured format. Keywords, references and suggested
bibliography lists at the end of each chapter are very helpful and makes the material accessible. Its style of writing is very easily understood.

Hanser acknowledges her own personal experiences as an introduction to each chapter which unfolds the rationale for each stage of the model. These personal narratives give a subjective and at times, intimate perspective
into the author’s life, which adds a refreshing twist and a cushion to a model that bases itself on evidence, objectivity, and target behaviors.

The book is rich with clinical examples of various populations and different therapeutic interventions, although the behavioral approach is the main guideline.

After reading the book it became clear that Hanser’s handbook is a very thorough text geared towards the beginner music therapist as well as a book that can successfully answer any doubting inquirer as to the efficacy
of music therapy.

For the experienced music therapist, this book can refresh important “grounds” in music therapy as seen in the assessment and evaluation chapters and offers great ideas in the music therapy treatment plan chapter. The
assessment chapter and others lean and borrow terminologies and concepts from other professions such as behavioral psychology, occupational, physical therapies and special education. This concurs with multi-professional assessment approach and the rising of the trans-disciplinary direction (Orelove & Sobsey, 1996). There are however other views in music therapy who claim for more new musicological orientation (Andsell, 1997) and better understanding of meaning in the context of music therapy (Stige, 1998) as a contemporary direction in music therapy.

The book has a definite purpose and approach. Hanser is very clear about what she wants to pass onto the reader. She expresses her concern (justifiably) for the lack of communication, documentation and accountability of music therapy and offers the data-base model as a solution.

Hanser’s handbook places a good base for the beginner music therapist and is an excellent text book to be included as part of a broader approach in music therapy training.


Ansdell, G. (1997). Music Elaborations. What hs the New Musicology to say to music therapy? British Journal of Music Therapy 11 (2) 36-44.

Orelove, F.P. & & Sobsey, D. (1996). Educating Children with Multiple Disabilities. A Transdisciplinary Approach. Baltimore, MD: Paul, H. Brooks Publ.

Stige, B. (1998). Perspective on Meaning in Music Therapy. British Journal of Music Therapy 12 (1) 20-27.

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