AMTA Advanced Competencies

AMTA Advanced Competencies


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. As the clinical and research activities of music therapy provide new information, the competency requirements need to be reevaluated regularly to ensure consistency with current trends and needs of the profession and to reflect the growth of the knowledge base of the profession. The Association updates these competencies based on what knowledge, skills, and abilities are needed to perform the various levels and types of responsibilities to practice at both a professional level and an advanced level.

In November 2005 the AMTA Assembly of Delegates adopted the Advisory on Levels of Practice in Music Therapy. The Advisory, which was developed by the Education and Training Advisory Board, distinguishes two Levels of Practice within the music therapy profession:

Professional Level of Practice: based on the AMTA Professional Competencies acquired with a baccalaureate degree in music therapy or its equivalent, which leads to entrance into the profession and Board Certification in Music Therapy.

Advanced Level of Practice: based on the AMTA Advanced Competencies, which is defined as the practice of music therapy wherein the music therapist applies and integrates a comprehensive synthesis of theories, research, treatment knowledge, musicianship, clinical skills, and personal awareness to address client needs. A music therapist at an Advanced Level of Practice has at least a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent in music therapy, a current professional designation or credential in music therapy (i.e., ACMT, CMT, MT-BC, or RMT), professional experience, and further education and/or training (e.g., receiving clinical supervision, a graduate degree, and/or advanced training). It is anticipated that in the future music therapists at the Advanced Level of Practice will hold at least a master’s degree in music therapy that includes advanced clinical education. The advanced music therapist demonstrates comprehensive understanding of foundations and principles of music, music therapy, treatment, and management in clinical, educational, research, and/or administrative settings.

Following the adoption of the Advisory on Levels of Practice in Music Therapy, AMTA appointed a Task Force on Advanced Competencies, which was charged with developing competencies for the Advanced Level of Practice as outlined in the Advisory. The Advisory describes four domains for the Advanced Level of Practice: Professional Growth, Musical Development, Personal Growth and Development, and Integrative Clinical Experience. The general headings and subheadings of the proposed Advanced Competencies have been reorganized to provide a better understanding of the context of these competencies, not only within the music therapy profession, but also beyond it for other constituencies. It is acknowledged that the advanced music therapist may not demonstrate competence in each of the areas of the Advanced Competencies, but would instead demonstrate acquisition of the majority of these competencies, with most, if not all, in the area(s) of his/her practice (e.g., clinical, supervisory, academic, research).

The Advanced Competencies provide guidelines for academia, both in regards to qualifications for university/college faculty and in setting standards for master’s degree programs in music therapy. The AMTA Standards for Education and Clinical Training specify standards for academic faculty employed full-time at a college or university with primary responsibilities for teaching music therapy and/or directing a music therapy program at the undergraduate or graduate level. Such qualifications for faculty require a music therapist practicing at an Advanced Level of Practice. The AMTA Standards for Master’s Degrees state that “the purpose of the master’s degree programs in music therapy is to impart advanced competencies, as specified in the AMTA Advanced Competencies. These degree programs provide breadth and depth beyond the AMTA Professional Competencies required for entrance into the music therapy profession.” The Advanced Competencies will also serve to guide the development of standards for the doctoral degree in music therapy, which shall focus on advanced competence in research, theory development, clinical practice, supervision, college teaching, and/or clinical administration.

The Advanced Competencies also provide guidelines for the Advanced Level of Practice in clinical, supervisory, administrative and research settings, as well as in government relations work dealing with such issues as state licensures and employment practices. Music therapists with master’s degrees and other professional requirements are being granted state licensures in the creative arts therapies (music therapy) and related disciplines in some states.

The initial version of the Advanced Competencies was adopted by the AMTA Assembly of Delegates in 2007 and was viewed as a work in progress. Following feedback from a number of sources, including the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM), a revised version is being submitted in 2009 for AMTA approval.

In conclusion, the Advanced Competencies serve as a vision for the further growth and development of the profession in issues related to advanced education and training, and more specifically, the relationship of these competencies to advanced degrees, education and training requirements, levels of practice, professional titles and designations, and various state licensures, based on current and future trends.

AMTA Advanced Competencies


A. Theory

1.1 Apply comprehensive knowledge of the foundations and principles of music therapy practice.

1.2 Synthesize comprehensive knowledge of current theories and deduce their implications for music therapy practice and/or research.

1.3 Differentiate the theoretical or treatment orientations of current models of music therapy.

1.4 Identify theoretical constructs underlying various clinical practices and research approaches.

1.5 Understand emerging models and trends in music therapy.

1.6 Apply current literature in music therapy and related fields relevant to one’s area(s) of expertise.

B. Clinical Practice

2. 0 Clinical Supervision

2.1 Establish and maintain effective supervisory relationships.

2.2 Promote the professional growth, self-awareness, and musical development of the supervisee.

2.3 Apply theories of supervision and research findings to music therapy supervision.

2.4 Design and implement methods of observing and evaluating supervisees that have positive effects on music therapy students and professionals at various levels of advancement and at different stages in the supervisory process.

2.5 Analyze the supervisee’s music therapy sessions in terms of both the effects of specific musical, verbal, and nonverbal interventions and the musical and interpersonal dynamics and processes of the client(s)-therapist relationship.

2.6 Use music to facilitate the supervisory process.

2.7 Apply knowledge of norms and practices of other cultures to the supervisory process.

2.8 Evaluate the effectiveness of various approaches and techniques of supervision.

2.9 Evaluate the effects of one’s own personality, supervisory style, and limitations on the supervisee and the supervisory process and seek consultation when appropriate.

3. 0 Clinical Administration

3.1 Adhere to laws and occupational regulations governing the provision of education and health services, particularly with regard to music therapy.

3.2 Adhere to accreditation requirements for clinical agencies, particularly with regard to music therapy.

3.3 Employ music therapy reimbursement and financing options.

3.4 Develop effective staffing patterns for the provision of music therapy services.

3.5 Develop effective recruiting and interviewing strategies for student and professional applicants.

3.6 Develop policies and procedures for staff evaluation and supervision.

3.7 Utilize management strategies to establish and maintain effective relationships and a high level of motivation among staff.

3.8 Integrate music therapy staff and programs into the agency’s service delivery systems.

3.9 Design methods for evaluating music therapy programs and service delivery.

4.0 Advanced Clinical Skills

4.1 Apply comprehensive knowledge of current methods of music therapy assessment, treatment, and evaluation.

4.2 Utilize comprehensive knowledge of human growth and development, musical development, diagnostic classifications, etiology, symptomatology, and prognosis in formulating treatment plans.

4.3 Understand the contraindications of music therapy for client populations served.

4.4 Understand the dynamics and processes of therapy from a variety of theoretical perspectives.

4.5 Utilize the dynamics and processes of various theoretical models in individual, dyadic, family, and group music therapy.

4.6 Design or adapt assessment and evaluation procedures for various client populations.

4.7 Utilize advanced music therapy methods (e.g., listening, improvising, performing, composing) within one or more theoretical frameworks to assess and evaluate clients’ strengths, needs, and progress.

4.8 Design treatment programs for emerging client populations.

4.9 Employ one or more models of music therapy requiring advanced training.

4.10 Utilize advanced verbal and nonverbal interpersonal skills within a music therapy context.

4.11 Assume the responsibilities of a primary therapist.

4.12 Relate clinical phenomena in music therapy to the broader treatment context.

4.13 Respond to the dynamics of musical and interpersonal relationships that emerge at different stages in the therapy process.

4.14 Fulfill the clinical roles and responsibilities of a music therapist within a total treatment milieu and in private practice.

4.15 Apply advanced skills in co-facilitating treatment with professionals from other disciplines.

4.16 Demonstrate comprehensive knowledge of client rights.

4.17 Understand the differential uses of the creative arts therapies and the roles of art, dance/movement, drama, psychodrama, and poetry therapy in relation to music therapy.

4.18 Apply creative processes within music therapy.

4.19 Employ imagery and ritual in music therapy.

4.20 Understand and respond to potential physical and psychological risks to client health and safety.

C. College/University Teaching

5.1 Design academic curricula, courses, and clinical training programs in music therapy consistent with current theories, research, competencies, and standards, including those for national accreditation and program approval.

5.2 Utilize current educational resources in music therapy (e.g., equipment, audio-visual aids, materials, technology).

5.3 Draw from a breadth and depth of knowledge of clinical practice in teaching music therapy.

5.4 Establish and maintain effective student-teacher relationships.

5.5 Communicate with other faculty, departments, and administration regarding the music therapy program and its educational philosophy.

5.6 Develop standards and procedures for admission and retention that support educational objectives consistent with the policies of the institution.

5.7 Utilize various methods of teaching (e.g., lecture, demonstration, role-playing, group discussion, collaborative learning).

5.8 Supervise and mentor students in clinical training, supervision, teaching, and research.

5.9 Advise and counsel students with regard to academic and professional matters.

5.10 Design and apply means of evaluating student competence, both internal (e.g., proficiency exams) and external (e.g., evaluations from clinical training supervisors).

5.11 Utilize internal, external, and self-evaluations to monitor the effectiveness of academic courses and programs in meeting educational objectives.

D. Research

6.1 Perform comprehensive literature searches using various indices to identify gaps in knowledge.

6.2 Translate theories, issues, and problems in clinical practice, supervision, administration, and higher education into meaningful research hypotheses or guiding questions.

6.3 Apply quantitative and qualitative research designs according to their indicated uses.

6.4 Conduct advanced research using one or more research approaches (e.g., historical, philosophical, qualitative, quantitative.)

6.5 Acknowledge one’s biases and personal limitations related to research.

6.6 Write grant proposals for funding research.

6.7 Conduct research according to ethical principles for protection of human participants, including informed consent, assessment of risk and benefit, and participant selection.

6.8 Collect and analyze data using appropriate procedures to avoid or minimize potential confounds.

6.9 Collaborate with others in conducting research.

6.10 Use various methods of data analysis.

6.11 Interpret and disseminate research results consistent with established standards of inquiry.

6.12 Evaluate scholarly and student research regarding research questions or problems, methods, procedures, data collection, analysis, and conclusions.


A. Musical and Artistic Development

7.1 Reproduce, notate, and transcribe musical responses of clients.

7.2 Compose music, including songs, in various styles to meet specific therapeutic objectives.

7.3 Provide spontaneous musical support for client improvisation.

7.4 Improvise in a variety of musical styles.

7.5 Utilize a wide variety of improvisatory techniques for therapeutic purposes.

7.6 Design music listening programs for therapeutic purposes.

7.7 Use different methods of musical analysis for client assessment and evaluation.

7.8 Adapt and select musical material for different musical cultures and sub-cultures.

7.9 Apply advanced skills in the clinical use of at least two of the following: keyboard, voice, guitar and/or percussion.

7.10 Utilize extensive and varied repertoire of popular, folk, and traditional songs.

B. Personal Development and Professional Role

8.1 Utilize self awareness and insight to deepen the client’s process in music therapy.

8.2 Identify and address one's personal issues.

8.3 Apply the principles of effective leadership.

8.4 Use personal reflection (e.g., journaling, artistic involvement, meditation, other spiritual pursuits).

8.5 Recognize limitations in competence and seek consultation.

8.6 Practice strategies for self care.

8.7 Selectively modify music therapy approaches based on knowledge of the roles and meanings of music in various cultures.

8.8 Work with culturally diverse populations, applying knowledge of how culture influences issues regarding identity formation, concepts of health and pathology, and understanding of the role of therapy.

8.9 Understand how music therapy is practiced in other cultures.

8.10 Apply current technology to music therapy practice.

8.11 Adhere to the AMTA Code of Ethics and Standards of Clinical Practice using best professional judgment in all areas of professional conduct.



The Task Force gratefully acknowledges the previous work of Kenneth Bruscia (1986) in identifying “Advanced Competencies in Music Therapy.” The ideas Bruscia expressed served as a basis for these competencies.

Members of the Task force on Advanced Competencies were Jane Creagan, Michele Forinash (Chair), Gary Johnson, Cathy McKinney, Christine Neugebauer, Paul Nolan, Marilyn Sandness, and Elizabeth Schwartz.



Bruscia, K. (1986). Advanced competencies in music therapy. Music Therapy, 6A, 57-67.



advanced level of practice - the practice of music therapy wherein the therapist, applying the integration of in-depth theories, research, treatment knowledge, musicianship, clinical skills, and personal awareness, assumes a central role using process-oriented or outcome-oriented music therapy methods to address a broad spectrum of client needs.

advanced training - learning of a comprehensive approach to, or model of, music therapy intended for broad and in-depth clinical application. The training occurs over an extended period of time; includes both didactic instruction and extensive, supervised clinical application; and results in the acquisition of a number of advanced competencies. Advanced training typically requires the master's degree as a prerequisite or co-requisite of the training program. Examples include, but are not limited to, Analytic Music Therapy, Bonny Method of Guided Imagery and Music, Nordoff Robbins Music Therapy.

construct - a working hypothesis or concept.1

dynamics - forces that interplay in the mind as a manifestation of purposeful intentions working concurrently or in mutual opposition. These forces can include the patterns of actions and reactions within the music, therapist and client triangle, as well as within groups.2

knowledge - facts or ideas acquired by study, investigation, observation, or experience.4

model - a. comprehensive approach to assessment, treatment, and evaluation which includes theoretical principles, clinical implications and contraindications, goals, methodological guidelines and specifications, and the use of procedural sequences and techniques.5

musical responses - the musical actions or reactions of a person in response to external or internal stimuli and the physiological, affective, motor, cognitive, or communicative responses to musical stimuli.

primary therapist - whether in an individual private practice or working within a team approach, the person who facilitates the therapeutic work of the highest importance.

process - a sequence of conscious and unconscious events leading to some change or alteration in the state of a dynamic system that includes the client, the music, and the music therapist.6

supervision - usually referred to as clinical, or music therapy, supervision. This educational relationship consists of an on-going consultation with another health care professional about the supervisee’s emerging role or continued growth as a clinician. Clinical supervision provides support for the supervisee for the purpose of development as a music therapist.

understanding - knowledge of or familiarity with a particular thing; skill in dealing with or handling something.7 Perception and comprehension of the nature and significance of.8

[1] Merriam-Webster. (2006-2007). Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary. Retrieved January 31, 2007, from

[2] Adapted from Cameron, N., & Rychlak, J. F. (1985). Personality development and psychopathology: A dynamic approach (2nd ed). Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.

[3] Merriam-Webster. (2006-2007). Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary. Retrieved January 31, 2007, from

[4] Adapted from Merriam-Webster. (2006-2007). Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary. Retrieved January 31, 2007, from

[5] Bruscia, K. (1998) Defining music therapy (2nd ed.). Gilsum, NH: Barcelona Publishers, p.113.

[6] Adapted from Colman, A. M. (2006). A dictionary of psychology. In Oxford Reference Online. Retrieved September 29, 2006 from

[7] Unabridged (v 1.1). Retrieved January 31, 2007, from website:

[8] understanding. (n.d.). The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Retrieved January 31, 2007, from website: 


Current as of 11/09