Essential Competencies for the Practice of Music Therapy

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1 Kenneth E. Bruscia Barbara Hesser Edith H. Boxill Essential Competencies for the Practice of Music Therapy Establishing competency requirements for music professionals goes back as far as the Middle Ages. In fact, wandering minstrels and jongleurs, the medieval forefathers of performing musicians, were often described and compared in terms of specific areas of competency (Burkhalter, 1968). Today, as in the Middle Ages, competency requirements of a profession are used in two ways: as criteria for entering or working in a profession, and as guidelines for educating and training professionals. For example, competencies are presently used as criteria for state certification of music educators (Craig, 1978), as learning objectives for the preparation of music educators (Teacher Education Commission, 1972), and as the basis for evaluating different degree curricula in music (NASM, 1980), Although competencies for the practice of music therapy have been cited in textbooks (Michel, 1977; Nordoff and Robbins, 1977). in educational research studies (Alley, 1978; Greenfield, 1978), and in various unpublished documents such as staff and intern evaluation forms, they were not used as criteria for certification or curriculum evaluation until 1975, when the American Association for Music Therapy (AAMT) officially adopted an inventory developed by the present authors. Appearing in the organization s manual on education and training (AAMT, 1975) under the chapter heading AAMT Music Therapy Competencies Entry Level, this inventory was originally copyrighted by the authors under the title Basic Music Therapy Competenties. Since its publication, this inventory has enjoyed widespread use; however, it has also received a fair share of criticism from professionals and students alike. In light of the need for revisions and clarifications, the original inventory has been reworked into its present form. Several sources were used in developing the inventories. First, existing music therapy curricula were analyzed to identify common learning objectives. Several potential competency requirements were discovered, especially in the area of music. Second, job descriptions were surveyed in order to identify primary responsibilities of a 43

2 music therapist. In most instances, these responsibilities coincided with basic steps in the therapeutic process: establishing a therapeutic relationship, assessing the client s assets and problems, planning treatment goals and methods, conducting therapy sessions, evaluating client progress and therapeutic procedures, achieving closure, writing reports, and attending case conferences. Task analysis of these steps revealed several competency requirements, particularly in the areas of clinical foundations and music therapy. The job description survey also identified several other significant variables in music therapy practice: the variety of client populations served by music therapists; differences in treatment philosophies and administrative structures; the nature of music therapy services provided (e.g., individual versus group, methodological models of therapy); and the increasing emphasis on interdisciplinary team work. After a large number of competencies were formulated and grouped into areas, each area was evaluated for its completeness and compared with other areas for redundancies. The final list of competencies was selected according to four criteria. Specifically, each competency should be: (1) Essential rather than peripheral. The competencies should be directly applicable to music therapy practice. For example, the ability to write and distinguish different species of counterpoint, while essential in some music professions, is rarely required in music therapy practice, and this would not qualify. (2) Entry-level rather than advanced. The competencies should reflect the knowledge and skills needed to enter the profession (i.e., begin practicing music therapy). Advanced competencies such as clinical specializations, research, or supervision were therefore excluded. (3) Universal rather than populationspecific. The competencies should be common to all types of music therapy, rather than unique to only a particular client population or clinical setting. (4) Professional rather than personal. The competencies should reflect professional knowledge and skills rather than desirable personal traits or habits. Thus, any competency requiring experiences beyond those of the classroom or internship were excluded Musical Foundations 1. MUSK THEORY AND HISTORY 1.1 Ability to analyze the elements, structure, and style of a musical composition through aural and visual means 1.2 Understanding of the elemental, structural, and stylistic characteristics of classical and popular music from various periods and cultures. 1.3 Ability to recognize standard works in the classical and popular literatures. 1.4 Ability to sight song (solfege) tonal melodies. 1.5 Ability to take aural dictation of tonal melodies, rhythm patterns, and four-part chord progressions that modulate. 2. COMPOSITION AND ARRANGEMENT 2.1 Ability to compose songs with simple accompaniments. 2.2 Ability to adapt and arrange musical compositions for small vocal and nonsymphonic instrumental ensembles. 3. MAJOR PERFORMANCE MEDIUM 3.1 Ability to perform moderately advanced repertoire on major instrument (or vocally), with considerable technical proficiency and interpretive standing under 44

3 Essential Competencies for Music Therapy 3.2 Ability to perform in small and large ensembles. 3.3 Ability to transpose simple compositions on major instrument (or vocally). 4. KEYBOARD 4.1 Ability to play intermediatelevel compositions with technical proficiency. 4.2 Ability to sight read simple compositions, song accompaniments, and four-part chord progressions. 4.3 Ability to play a basic repertoire of traditional folk and popular songs. 4.4 Ability to play basic chord progressions in all keys (I-IV-W. 4.5 Ability to harmonize melodies at sight and by ear. 4.6 Ability to transpose simple songs at sight and by ear. 4.7 Ability to accompany self while 4.8 singing. Ability to accompany small vocal and nonsymphonic instrumental ensembles. 5. GUITAR 5.1 Ability to play all first-position chords using simple strums and folk picks. 5.2 Ability to harmonize melodies at sight and by ear. 5.3 Ability to transpose simple songs at sight and by ear. 5.4 Ability to play a basic repertoire of traditional folk and popular songs. 5.5 Ability to accompany self while singing. 5.6 Ability to accompany small vocal and nonsymphonic instrumental ensembles. 6. VOICE 6.1 Ability to sing in tune with a pleasing quality. 6.2 Understanding of basic vocal techniques. 6.3 Ability to sing by memory a basic repertoire of traditional folk and popular songs. 7. NONSYMPHONIC INSTRUMENTS 7.1 Ability to play autoharp with same competence specified for guitar ( ). 7.2 Ability to play a wide variety of melodic and percussive nonsymphonic instruments. 8. IMPROVISATION 8.1 Ability to invent and develop original melodies, accompaniments, and short pieces extemporaneously in a variety of moods and styles, vocally and instrumentally. 8.2 Ability to elaborate and vary a given melody or accompaniment extemporaneously. on keyboard or guitar. 8.3 Ability to improvise in small ensembles. 9. CONDUCTING Ability to conduct small vocal and nonsymphonic instrumental ensembles. 10. MOVEMENT 10.1 Ability to express self through movement or dance Ability to move expressively to music. Clinical Foundations 11. EXCEPTIONALITY 11.1 Understanding of the causes and symptoms of various exceptionalities, and terminology used in diagnosis and classification Understanding of the potentials, limitations, and problems of exceptional individuals Understanding of physical and psychological aspects of normal and delayed human development. 45

4 11.4 Understanding of various theories of psychopathology. 12. DYNAMICS OF THERAPY 12.1 Understanding of the dynamics and processes of a therapistclient relationship Understanding of the dynamics and processes of therapy 12.3 groups. Understanding of various methods and techniques of individual and group psychotherapy. 13. THE THERAPEUTIC RELATIONSHIP 13.1 Ability to view the client s world from the client s perspective Ability to recognize the impact of one s own feelings, attitudes. and actions on the client and the therapy process Ability to establish and maintain interpersonal relationships with clients that are conducive to effective therapy Abtlity to se self effectively in both individual and group therapy Ability to utilize the dynamics and processes of a group to achieve a therapy goal. Music Therapy 14. FOUNDATIONS AND PRINCIPLES 14.1 Understanding of philosophical. psychological, and sociological bases for the se of music as therapy Understanding of psychoiogical and physiological aspects of musical behavior and experience (i.e music and affect; the influences of music on behavior: physiological responses to music; musical perception and cognition, psychomotor aspects of musical behavior; music learning and development; creativity). Understanding of the musical characteristics of various client populations. Understanding of factors that contribute to Individual musical differences within each client population. Understanding of the purpose and function of music therapy for all client populations. Understanding of principles and methods of music therapy assessment and their appropriate application. Understanding of existing music therapy methods, techniques, materials. and equipment. and their appropriate application. Understanding of the principles and methods for evaluating the effects of music therapy. Knowledge of the history of music therapy and its growth as a profession. 15. CLIENT ASSESSMENT 15.1 Ability to identify the client s primary assessment needs in music therapy Ability to select, design, and Implement effective methods for assessing the client s assets and problems through music Ability to select, design, and implement effective methods for assessing the client s musical preferences and level of musical functioning or development 15.4 Ability to observe and record the client s responses to assessment accurately Ability to determine the reliability and validity of the assessment data collected Ability to interpret and utilize 46

5 Essential Competencies for Music Therapy the assessment findings of other disciplines Ability to identify the client s therapeutic needs through an analysis and interpretation of the assessment data. 16. TREATMENT PLANNING 16.1 Ability to identify the client s primary treatment needs in music therapy Ability to formulate goals for individual and group music therapy based upon assessment 16.3 findings. Ability to analyze long-term goals into short-term objectives Ability to analyze therapy goals and objectives into developmental/learning sequences Ability to formulate music therapy strategies for individuals and groups based upon the goals and objectives adopted Ability to determine the appropriateness of individual versus group therapy. 17. THERAPY IMPLEMENTATION 17.1 Ability to create a physical environment (e.g., arrangement of space, furniture, equipment, and instruments) that is conducive to effective therapy Ability to select, design, or adapt musical materials consistent with the treatment plan Ability to provide musical experiences that motivate client participation Ability to provide verbal and nonverbal directions and cues necessary for successful client participation Ability to improvise music 17.6 spontaneously that reflects or portrays the client s attitudes, feelings, and behaviors. Ability to engage the client in musical interactions through musical improvisation or composed materials Ability to sequence and pace musical experiences within a session according to client needs and situational factors Ability to recognize, interpret, and respond appropriately to significant events in the therapy session as they occur. 18. THERAPY EVALUATION 18.1 Ability to recognize significant changes and patterns in the client s response to therapy Ability to keep accurate and pertinent therapy logs Ability to establish realistic time frames for evaluating the effects of therapy Ability to design and implement methods for evaluating and measuring client progress and the effectiveness of therapeutic strategies Ability to determine the reliability and validity of the evaluations and measurements employed Ability to utilize evaluation findings as a basis for determining the future course of therapy. 19. DISCHARGE FROM THERAPY 19.1 Ability to determine the appropriate time for terminating therapy Ability to prepare the client for closure in the therapy process. 20. COMMUNICATION ABOUT THERAPY 20.1 Ability to communicate orally with the client, parents, and other team members regarding client progress and various aspects of the client s music therapy program Ability to write professional reports describing the client throughout all phases of the 47

6 music therapy process in an accurate, concise, and appropriate way. 21. INTERDISCIPLINARY COLLABORATION 21.1 Understanding of the roles and relationships of other disciplines in the client s treatment program, especially the other creative art therapies Ability to define the role of music therapy in the client s total treatment program Ability to integrate music therapy assessment findings with those of other disciplines and to identify the relationships between client goals and methods in music therapy with those of other disciplines, especially the other creative art therapies Ability to collaborate with other team members in designing and implementing interdisciplinary treatment programs. 22. SUPERVISION AND ADMINISTRATION 22.1 Ability to participate in and benefit from supervision Basic understanding of the ways in which various types of clinical agencies are administratively organized Understanding of how music therapy fits into various administrative structures Ability to perform administrative duties usually required of clinicians (e.g., scheduling therapy, ordering equipment, maintaining record files). 23. ETHICS 23.1 Ability to interpret and apply laws and regulations regarding the human rights of clients Ability to interpret and apply ethical standards of the music therapy profession. 48

7 Essential Competencies for Music Therapy References Alley, J. M. Competency based evaluation of a music therapy curriculum. Journal of Music Therapy, XV(1). 1978, American Association for Music Therapy (AAMT) Manual on AAMT Approval of Educational Programs in Music Therapy New York. American Association for Music Therapy Burkhalter, A.L Minstrels and Masters by Romain Goldron, New York. Doubleday Craig, B. Jr. (Ed.) More from PaCBTE: Inventories of Specialized Competencies. Harrisburg, PA Pennsylvania Department of Education Greenfield. D. G. Evaluation of must therapy practicum competencies: Comparisons of selfand instructor ratings of videotapes. Journal of Music Therapy, XV (1) Michel, D. E Music Therapy. An lntroduction to Therapy and Special Education Through Music Springfield. IL Charles C Thomas National Association of Schools of Music (NASM) NASM Handbook 1980 Reston. VA: National Association of Schools of Music Nordoff, P & Robbins. C Creative Music Therapy New York John Day Co Teacher Education Commission. Teacher Educa. tion in Music A Final Report. Reston, VA Music Educators National Conference Kenneth E. Bruscia, Ph.D, CMT holds degrees in both music and psychology and is a certified music therapist. His clinical experience includes working with psychotic adults, geriatric subjects, disturbed adolescents, and the mentally retarded. Presently, he is Coordinator of Music Therapy Programs at Temple University. Having served two terms on the AAMT Board of Directors and as Chairman of the Education and Training Committee, Dr. Bruscia was elected President of the organization in September Dr. Bruscia has been re-elected to serve on the Board for another three-year term. Barbara Hesser, CMT is Associate Professor and Coordinator of the Music Therapy graduate program at New York University. She is clinical consultant at the Kennedy Child Study Center for multiply handicapped children. On the Board of Directors of the American Association for Music Therapy since 1974, she served as Vice Chairman of the Education and Training Committee until 1980, and is currently Vice President and Editor of the new journal, Music Therapy. 49

AMTA Advanced Competencies Preamble The American Music Therapy Association has established competency-based standards for ensuring the quality of education and clinical training in the field of music therapy.

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