Models of Music Therapy

When selecting any care provider - be it a dentist, a babysitter, or a psychotherapist, it’s important to find someone who will be a good fit. This may require some understanding of the various types of therapy, which include developmental, psychodynamic, or cognitive therapies. The basic models of music therapy were developed based on a combination of models of other therapies and pragmatic or empirical research and experience. Aside from these theoretical studies that all music therapists learn about in school, there are a variety of other models and styles of music therapy - biomedical, neurologic, community music therapy; and a number of extra trainings music therapists can go through once they’re board-certified.


  1. Nordoff Robbins Music Therapy; in which improvised music is used to awaken dormant capacities in children with disabilities.

  2. Bonny Method of Guided Imagery in Music; in which individually-designed musical programs are listened to in altered states of consciousness in order to evoke imagery that facilitates psychological healing and development.

  3. Analytical Music Therapy; a framework that uses psychoanalysis to explore the clinical significance of created music.

  4. Neurologic Music Therapy; in which specific music techniques are used to stimulate parts of the brain and treat neurologic disorders.


In these and others (hospice and palliative care music therapy, N-ICU music therapy), therapists are trained to work with specific populations or with specific musical interventions for a number of populations. Some of the trainings are more for the interests of the individual therapist, and most music therapy programs at universities give an overview of all of it - so any music therapist should have clinical practice backed by firm research and implemented with creativity and flexibility. But feel free to ask them about their theoretical backgrounds and interests!


My therapist’s statement can be found here - I work with a client-centered approach, so when I work with staff and family to create goals for each client, I find the musical interventions that will best meet those goals. My graduate program at NYU was a music psychotherapy training, so we learned a lot about the analytic approach. I had a job filming sessions at the Nordoff-Robbins Center and took courses with Clive Robbins, so much of my work is improvisatory in music - sometimes I’ll have a whole session with a nonverbal client in which we only make music. I took the level I certification training in GIM, which I use to inform my work with adults in oncology settings, and I did the Remo HealthRhythms training so I can now facilitate drum circle style groups for teens and anyone working on social skills. Most recently, I completed the Neurologic Music Therapy training (about which you can read my thoughts here).