Defining Music Therapy by Kenneth E. Bruscia

By Kenneth E. Bruscia

Enormously improved, this moment version surveys and defines parts, degrees, and techniques of medical practicer, idea, and learn in song treatment.

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What limits are necessary? Differences in Perspective So far we have only considered the problems of defining music therapy from a professional’s point of view, that is, from the perspective of the therapist. But what meaning does a definition by professionals have for the clients they serve, even when that “technical” definition resolves the many theoretical issues raised here? How do clients define music therapy? Where do they place the boundaries of music and therapy? Do clients agree with how therapists define what they are experiencing?

Music therapists vary among themselves according to specialization areas and the various clinical orientations existing in that area. For example, music therapists who have a specialization in developmental disability may base their work on Challenges of Defining 13 behavior theories, while others may use communication theory; some may work toward improving adaptive behavior, others may focus on academic learning, and still others may emphasize quality of life. Music therapists in a hospital or palliative-care setting may work within a biopsychosocial or transpersonal-healing orientation; some may focus on influencing the disease process and its effects, and some may address the wellness side.

Many of the differences can be attributed to the elusive nature of music therapy itself. Some music therapists even think that it’s undefinable! To be sure, it is very difficult to define, and many aspects make it so. As a body of knowledge and practice, it is a hybrid of two subject areas, music and therapy, which relate to many different disciplines; as a transdisciplinary field, it is at once an art, science, and humanity; as a fusion of music and therapy, both of which have unclear boundaries, it is very difficult to define; as a treatment modality, it is incredibly diverse in application, goal, method, and theoretical orientation; as a worldwide endeavor, it is influenced by differences in culture; as a discipline and profession, it has a dual identity; and as a relatively young field, it is still developing.

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