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Music Therapy Models as a Function of Client Group

December 2, 2003; Christian Gold (



1)There are many different models and methods of music therapy, and there is a great variety of different clients to whom music therapy is provided. Although most music therapy models were developed with a specific target client group in mind, debates between the proponents of different models have centred much more on theoretical assumptions and have not always taken into account the existing differences in client groups for whom these models were developed. If there was a study showing empirically that much of the variation in music therapy models and methods is explained by the group of clients, what implications would that have? – Actually, such a study already exists. It was first presented at the European Music Therapy Congress in Naples in 2001 and has been widely ignored since then. I would like to see a discussion about this study emerging.

2)Drieschner and Pioch (2001) have empirically examined the relationship between client group and music therapy techniques, using the three dimensions ‘receptive-active,’ ‘focus of attention’ end ‘level of structuring.’ The results suggest that a considerable amount of the variance between music therapy techniques, as expressed on these dimensions, is explained by client group and goals of therapy. Does this mean that music therapists, regardless of their theoretical orientation, have an ‘implicit knowledge’ of what methods are best for their clients, which is developed out of clinical experience? Are the differences between theoretical positions then just a secondary product of such implicit knowledge?


Drieschner, K., & Pioch, A. (2001, April). “Therapeutic Methods of Experienced Music Therapists as a Function of the Kind of Clients and the Goals of Therapy.” Paper presented at the 5th European Music Therapy Congress, Naples, Italy. Available: http://www.musictherapyworld.de/modules/mmmagazine/showarticle.php?articletoshow=33. (Complete conference proceedings available on info CD-ROM IV and on http://www.musictherapyworld.net/modules/archive/stuff/reports/EMTC2001.pdf, p. 1261-1278.)


January 8, 2004; Felicity Baker (



1)Thank-you to Dr. Christian Gold for instigating this new and interesting discussion topic. When I read Christian’s contribution I immediately recalled a conversation I had with one of my colleagues while participating in the November 2003 PhD course in Aalborg. The discussion was stimulated by a comment made by one colleague about another colleague’s clinical work – This is not music therapy- he said. In my view many clinicians and researchers need to be open towards other clinicians’ differing practices which are influenced not only by the client groups treated but also the orientation of the treatment team, the source of funding, and the treatment timeframes available.

2)While music therapists would ideally like the freedom to provide therapy in whatever orientation they feel is most appropriate, fitting in with the whole treatment team and philosophy of care stipulated by the facility maybe important. An example of this was when my colleague (Kylie Lee) and I needed to reframe our work to align with a change in orientation by the hospital where we were employed (Lee & Baker, 1997). Initially we worked as part of a multidisciplinary team working with brain injured people. We had free reign to provide programs to clients in whatever way we chose provided that the goals we set for clients led to functional outcomes. After some years, the hospital moved towards an interdisciplinary model whereby treatment programs were decided at a team level and all therapies worked towards a limited number of common goals. In order for us to maintain our role on the team, we needed to rethink our concepts of therapy, goals and outcomes. The way we approached music therapy was significantly influenced by the philosophy of the treatment team. In fact it was a way of safeguarding our role on the team.

3)Sources of funding are also important in influencing the treatment approaches applied to clients irrespective of the client group seen. Funding for music therapy may be only provided when there is a focus on a certain aspect of human functioning – whether that be psychosocial, physical, psychological, emotional etc. Certainly this is the case in Australia. With the escalating costs of healthcare, funding for services are provided in any designated area of functioning of interest to the funding body. In this sense, funding bodies dictate the focus of treatment (and therefore approach).

4)Finally, the length of treatment also influences the music therapy approach selected. For example, in some facilities in Australia, clients are only seen once or twice. Implementing analytically informed music therapy programs are inappropriate when so few music therapy sessions can be provided, even if the clinician believes analytical music therapy programs to be of most relevance to the client’s needs.


Lee, K. & Baker, F. (1997). Towards Integrating a Holistic Rehabilitation System: The Implications for Music Therapy. The Australian Journal of Music Therapy, 8, 30-37

© 2003. Nordic Journal of Music Therapy. All right reserved.

This page was last updated by Rune Rolvsjord December 2, 2003.