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The evolution of music therapy research

With the American Music Therapy Association’s Annual Conference this weekend, we asked Andrea Farbman, Executive Director of the American Music Therapy Association; Dr. Sheri Robb, editor of Journal of Music Therapy; and Dr. Anthony Meadows, editor of Music Therapy Perspectives, to tell us about the profession of music therapy in a three-part series.

By Dr. Anthony Meadows


I have been a music therapist for nearly 30 years. During this time, I have been struck over and over again by the many diverse ways there are to practice music therapy. Music therapists, myself included, have been present with our clients as they grapple with the various ways cancer affects their lives—the enduring sickness, financial burdens, strained relationships, and uncertain futures. As members of interdisciplinary teams, music therapists are there helping those with traumatic brain injuries regain their speech, cognitive, and motor capacities in the hopes that they can live life again on their own terms. Music therapists work with children with autism, helping them build relationships and develop communication skills in a sensory environment that can be so confusing. Music therapists also work with those in hospice care, fostering memories, bringing closure, and being present during the end stages of life.

Music therapy is a profession of diversity in practice and it’s this diversity that I have the privilege of showcasing to the research community as Editor of one of the premier music therapy journals, Music Therapy Perspectives.

The American Music Therapy Association (AMTA) defines music therapy as “the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program.” (AMTA, 2013). Music therapy is a professional healthcare discipline that strives to help those with therapeutic needs—whether they be emotional, cognitive, developmental, sensorimotor, or communicative—develop skills, adapt behaviors, and overcome obstacles. There is a unique relationship that develops between the client, the music, and the music therapist and it’s this relationship that mediates the music therapy process.

Not only is there diversity in music therapy practice, but there is a diversity in the needs of the music therapy community. At Music Therapy Perspectives (MTP), we strive to meet these diverse needs. We seek to advance the knowledge of practicing music therapists by focusing on a broad range of topics pertinent to clinical and professional work. These include clinical interventions, education and training, professional issues, information sharing, book reviews, and technology. Our published research encompasses qualitative research, quantitative research, pilot projects, case studies, research summaries, and literature analyses. MTP is designed to appeal to a wide readership inside and outside the music therapy profession and seeks to promote the development of music therapy practice through the dissemination of scholarly work.

It has been my honor to serve as Editor of Music Therapy Perspectives since 2011 and it is now my distinct privilege to help shepherd this journal to a new era. The American Music Therapy Association (AMTA), which has been self-publishing MTP since its founding in 1998, has recently partnered with Oxford University Press (OUP). The collaboration between AMTA and OUP will serve the ever-growing worldwide music therapy community. It will allow for numerous enhancements designed to improve the functionality and accessibility of music therapy research, such as mobile apps, e-articles, and archived materials, while still maintaining the high quality, peer-reviewed research standard that AMTA has maintained for three decades.

I am eager and excited to be a part of moving the MTP journal forward into this phase of its evolution. Although I have only been at the helm for two years, as a music therapist I am proud of the long and successful history of this journal. I look forward to sharing the quality and diversity of music therapy practice with the OUP readership.

Dr. Anthony MeadowsAnthony Meadows, Ph.D., MT-BC, FAMI is Associate Professor of Music, Director of Music Therapy, and Chair of the Graduate Music Therapy Program at Immaculata University. A fellow at the Association for Music and Imagery, he is also the editor of Music Therapy Perspectives.

For readers inside and outside the profession of music therapy, Music Therapy Perspectives seeks to promote the development of music therapy clinical practice through the dissemination of scholarly work. Focusing on clinical benefits of music therapy, the journal strives to serve as a resource and forum for music therapists, music therapy students and educators, and those in related professions. Music Therapy Perspectives is an official publication of the American Music Therapy Association.

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