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Consumers of Music Therapy
to Individuals with Autism and Related Disorders
John A. Carpente, MA, CMT, NRMT
Founder and Executive Director of The Rebecca Center for Music Therapy
Faculty member at Molloy College, Rockville Centre, NY

DISCLAIMER: This document suggests guidelines for consumers to use determining who may be qualified to facilitate music therapy interventions for individuals with autism, as recommended by The Rebecca Center for Music Therapy. It does not represent the official policy, position, or opinions of the American Music Therapy Association.

"Music Therapy is a goal-directed process in which the therapist helps the client to improve, maintain, or restore a state of well-being, using musical experiences and the relationships that develop through them as a dynamic force." -Dr. Kenneth Bruscia, MT-BC

Planning and implementing effective music therapy programs for individuals with autism requires specific competencies. Individuals with autism, their families, and other consumers have the right to know whether persons who claim to be qualified music therapists actually have the necessary competencies. In addition, consumers have the right to hold those individuals accountable for providing quality services. Consumers should ask their music therapist:

  • questions regarding education, such as degrees held.
  • questions regarding specializations and advanced training.
  • questions regarding certification, such as, ďare you a certified music therapist?Ē
  • questions regarding experience
  • questions regarding how they use music in sessions
  • questions regarding how music is used to achieve goals, and create a treatment plan
  • questions regarding evaluating effectiveness
  • questions regarding the difference between music therapy and music education
  • questions regarding why the therapist is using certain music


Formal credentialing of professional music therapists through the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA) or the Certification Board of Music Therapists can provide safeguards for consumers, including a means of screening potential providers, and some recourse if incompetent or unethical practices are encountered. Credentials include CMT (Certified Music Therapist), RMT (Registered Music Therapy), and MT-BC (Board Certified Music Therapist).

Unfortunately, there continues to be a tremendous gap between the supply of qualified music therapists and the demand for music therapy services. Nonetheless, as with any other credentialed professionals, consumers should exercise caution when working with individuals who have, or claim to have, credentials in music therapy. Although a formal credential in music therapy is evidence that a professional has met minimum competency standards, it does not guarantee that the individual has specific expertise in autism, or that he/she can produce optimal treatment outcomes.

Facts on music therapy education and credentialing

  1. Music therapists can sit for the board certification exam after successfully completing course work on a Bachelorís or Masterís degree level and 1040 hours of supervised internship training.
  2. There is a substantial difference between a music therapist practicing on a Bachelorís level and a music therapist practicing on a Masterís level.
  3. Once completing a Masterís degree in music therapy, therapists can advance their level work by enrolling in post-graduate advanced clinical training (e.g. Nordoff-Robbins Approach (NRMT), Analytical Music Therapy (AMT), Guided Imagery in Music (GIM), etc.
  4. For music therapists looking to practice on the primary level; become researchers, college professors, theorists-experts in the field, there are PhD programs in music therapy available.

As you can see, there are several levels of education that music therapists can be certified on, and practice on. Consumers have the right and the responsibility to know and research their providerís education background and specialization. For more information on levels of practice visit: www.musictherapy.org (American Music Therapy Association) and www.therebeccacenter.org (The Rebecca Center for Music Therapy). Because of the different levels of practice, consumers need to know that not everyone with the title ďmusic therapistĒ practices on the same level.

Consumers be aware

Individuals with musical backgrounds, degrees in music, etc. who perform at nursing homes or schools are not music therapists.

Attending workshops, taking courses, or having experience working with people with special needs does not qualify an individual to practice music therapy. Unfortunately, there may be some individuals who misrepresent themselves when describing their skills and experiences to consumers.

As mentioned, credentialed music therapists can practice on many different levels, depending on their education, experience, and musical skill. Fees should be arranged accordingly. Expect to pay more for a seasoned music therapist with higher education.

This article is Copyright © 2005 by John A. Carpente, MA, CMT, NRMT. No duplication is permitted without the permission of the author who can be contacted through The Rebecca Center for Music Therapy.

This page last updated on 15 April 2008.

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