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Note: Members of the AMTA Ethics Board are a resource for consultation and support for AMTA members and the public who may have questions, concerns or be faced with ethical dilemmas. A list of current Ethics Board Members can be found here. More information for AMTA members from the Ethics Board can be found here. If you have a question, concern, or complaint related to the AMTA Code of Ethics, please contact a member of the Ethics Board using our secure email address: Please allow at least 72 hours for a reply. You may also initiate contact via the AMTA Ethics Board Contact Form here.

American Music Therapy Association Code of Ethics

Table of Contents
  1. Glossary of terms
  2. Ethical Decision-Making Models
  3. Implementation and Enforcement

Preamble and Purpose


The Code of Ethics of the American Music Therapy Association, Inc., summarizes our values as professionals and describes principles and standards for guiding the practice of music therapy in a responsible, fair, and accountable manner. We, the members of the American Music Therapy Association, hold Kindness, Social Responsibility, Dignity and Respect, Equality, Accountability, Excellence, Integrity, and Courage to be Core Values. These values are reflected in five ethical principles which include (1) respecting the dignity and rights of all, (2) acting with compassion, (3) being accountable, (4) demonstrating integrity and veracity, and (5) striving for excellence. These values and principles provide guidelines for ethical decision-making in our daily practice. Standards of behavior guide our conduct as professionals. Ethical practice is more than following a list of rules. It is a commitment to virtuous, caring, courageous thinking that involves self-examination and the well-being of others as our highest intent. We commit ourselves to uphold the value and worth of every person, and to treat all with dignity.

Music therapists who encounter ethical dilemmas are advised to follow a decision-making process available in the literature (Dileo, 2000; Swisher, Arslanian, & Davis 2005, & Markkula Center for Applied Ethics). Music therapists are advised to also consult the Scope of Music Therapy Practice and the AMTA Standards of Clinical Practice for more detailed information to guide clinical decision-making.

It is important for music therapists to recognize our responsibility to adhere to laws, regulations, or policies of organizations and other governing bodies outside the AMTA. In cases where such laws, regulations, or governing body policies conflict with ethical responsibilities, the music therapist will address and seek to resolve this conflict with those in decision-making positions with the best interests of the client foremost in mind. Music therapists are reminded that we practice within the norms and standards of the communities in which we work and that our behavior may influence public attitude toward the profession.


This Code of Ethics describes the highest ideals for music therapists as an aspirational guide to professional conduct. It is equally intended to educate and guide music therapists in ethical practice, as well as inform those outside the profession.


This Code of Ethics is applicable to all those holding the MT-BC credential, and professional membership in the American Music Therapy Association. This Code is also applicable to music therapy students and interns under clinical supervision. All music therapy practitioners are expected to uphold the spirit and purpose of the Code, and to practice according to these standards.

Upholding our right to freedom of inquiry and communication, we accept the responsibilities inherent in such freedom: competency, objectivity, consistency, integrity, and continual concern for the best interests of society and our profession. Therefore, we collectively and individually affirm the following declarations of professional conduct.

Core Values

This Code of Ethics is grounded in a set of eight Core Values: 1. Kindness, 2. Social Responsibility, 3. Dignity/Respect, 4. Equality, 5. Accountability, 6. Excellence, 7. Integrity, and 8. Courage. These Core Values provide a foundation to guide music therapists in their practice and interactions. These Core Values should be considered in determining all ethical courses of action. (See glossary for detailed definition of these values)

Principles for Ethical Practice

Principle #1 Respect dignity and rights of all

Music therapists respect the dignity and rights of all people; this informs our relationships with clients, colleagues, students, research subjects, and all people we encounter. By acknowledging the worth of all people, this principle also encourages the music therapist to reflect sensitivity in all interactions.

To operationalize this principle, the music therapist will:

1.1  provide quality client care regardless of the client's race, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, ethnic or national origin, disability, health status, socioeconomic status, marital status, or political affiliation.

1.2  identify and recognize their personal biases, avoiding discrimination in relationships with clients, colleagues, and others in all settings.

1.3  respect, acknowledge, and protect the rights of all clients, including the rights to safety, treatment, respect, dignity, and self-determination, as well as the rights to choose a provider, to exercise legal and civil rights, and to participate in treatment decisions.

1.4  respect the client's right of ownership to creative products as a result of participation in music therapy.

1.5  obtain informed consent from the client or legal guardian. In cases in which the client is unable to provide consent, assent will nonetheless be sought.

1.6  respect and protect the client's confidentiality at all times and following any applicable institutional or legal rules and regulations. The music therapist will inform the client of all limitations to confidentiality prior to the beginning of treatment.

1.7  protect the rights of clients, students and research participants under applicable policies, laws and regulations. Music therapists will ensure students, researchers, volunteers, and employees abide by privacy laws and exceptions as currently defined in Pub.L. 104-191 - Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act and Pub. L. 93-380 - Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, and Title IX- Education Amendments Act.

1.8  acquire knowledge and information about the specific cultural group(s) with whom they work, seeking supervision and education as needed.

1.9  avoid entering into dual relationships when doing so would violate professional boundaries or clinical objectivity.

1.10  avoid accepting gifts or other considerations that could influence or give an appearance of influencing professional judgment.

1.11  avoid engaging in sexual or romantic relationships with clients, their family members, caregivers, students, trainees, research participants, or employees.

1.12  work collaboratively with peers using open direct communication to resolve differences of opinion or to recognize others' perceptions.

1.13  respect the professional services offered by colleagues in music therapy and other disciplines and endeavor to communicate openly when a change in provider occurs or is pending.

Principle #2 Act with compassion

As music therapists we are often confronted with much suffering and feel the need to assist in the alleviation of discomfort. By manifesting patience, wisdom, and genuine desire to help meet the needs of our clients, we offer compassion to those we serve. In addition, it is important for music therapists to extend compassion to themselves when confronted with their own human limitations.

To operationalize this principle, the music therapist will:

2.1  act with the best interest of clients in mind at all times.

2.2  actively listen to their clients and affirm and validate their experiences.

2.3  be aware and accepting of client's individual factors and cultural differences in the treatment process.

2.4  empower clients to make desired changes in their lives.

2.5  act with compassion and genuine interest when dealing with peers.

2.6  seek peer/professional supervision to assist with reflection and practice improvement.

2.7  practice self-kindness and mindfulness and extend compassion to self if faced with feelings of inadequacy or failure.

Principle #3 Be accountable

The act of being accountable encompasses the obligation to report, explain, and be answerable for resulting consequences. Accountability is valued as a means to establish trust and strengthen professional and client-based relationships. The music therapist will be honest, fair, accurate, respectful, timely, and maintain privacy in all interactions.

To operationalize this principle, the music therapist will:

3.1  fulfill their legal and professional obligations to the profession with respect to any applicable local, state, and federal laws and regulations, and employer policies.

3.2  accurately inform potential and current clients of credentials and fulfill educational requirements for maintenance and renewal.

3.3  work in a manner to reflect truthful and fair business practices that benefit clients, society, and the profession.

3.4  seek remuneration that is fair and reasonable.

3.5  conduct, document, and report professional, academic, and research activities in an accurate and timely manner, and in accordance with applicable regulations and best practices.

3.6  identify and fully disclose errors, adverse, or sentinel events that compromise the safety of clients and others, to all appropriate persons.

3.7  differentiate personal views from those of the profession, the employer or agency.

3.8  report any illegal actions to authorities.

3.9  give credit and recognition when using the ideas and work of others.

3.10  provide comprehensive, accurate, and objective information about expectations for treatment outcomes.

3.11  offer services commensurate with training and corresponding scope(s) of practice(s), recognizing personal limitations.

3.12  exercise caution and professional judgment in all electronic, written, verbal, and inferred communications being especially aware of electronic messages and potential public access.

3.13  be familiar with the Code of Ethics, abide by its principles and report witnessed violations to the Ethics Board, refraining from frivolous or punitive reporting. When a question arises regarding behaviors and ethics, the member is encouraged to consult with the Ethics Board.

3.14  cooperate and participate in ethics board inquiries and processes when requested to do so.

Principle #4. Demonstrate integrity and veracity

Demonstrating integrity and veracity challenges each individual to act with truthfulness and accuracy in all communications. These qualities compel us to be incorruptible and devoted to truth in all professional relationships and interactions. Additionally, adherence to the principle of veracity requires thoughtful analysis of how full disclosure of information may affect outcomes. If there are circumstances in which a music therapist must weigh the consequences when two or more values are in conflict, it is incumbent upon the music therapist to seek peer supervision or counsel from other resources.

To operationalize this principle, the music therapist will:

4.1  demonstrate truthfulness while using discernment and judgement while contemplating potential outcomes.

4.2  use resources available to them to enhance and better their practice (e.g., peer/professional supervision).

4.3  use caution when predicting the potential outcomes of services offered.

4.4  truthfully and accurately document outcomes of treatment.

4.5  fully disclose any financial interest in products or services that they recommend to clients.

4.6  make referrals to other professionals to address client needs beyond the scope of music therapy practice or beyond the therapist's professional competence.

4.7  provide accurate information to clients entering into a therapeutic or research relationship, and obtain informed consent from the client or research participant.

4.8  ensure that billing and business practices are accurate and reflect the nature and extent of the services provided.

Principle #5. Strive for excellence

The music therapist seeks to continually improve skills and knowledge, evaluating the strength and applicability of evidence into all areas of professional practice and behavior. Striving for excellence in music therapy encompasses all aspects of music therapy: education, training, supervision, clinical practice, business and research. Striving for excellence does not imply perfection, but the ongoing commitment to expand our knowledge and skills in all areas.

To operationalize this principle, the music therapist will:

5.1  achieve and maintain professional competence through learning and personal growth, and encourage colleagues to do the same.

5.2  strive to be self-aware and to continually improve skills and knowledge by integrating the best available evidence and findings from research to maintain best practices.

5.3  use caution, critical thinking, and strong consideration of the best available evidence when incorporating new and evolving interventions and technologies into their practice, education, or supervision.

5.4  will serve as a positive role model for students and interns regarding professional behavior, most especially regarding ethical behavior; assuring that students learn about and operate under the guidelines of this Code.

5.5  educators and clinical training directors ensure that students and interns meet or exceed the AMTA professional competencies before recommending entrance into the profession.

Music therapists are reminded that a Code of Ethics cannot describe every possible situation but offers the music therapist guidelines for ethical decision-making and professional conduct. Music therapists are encouraged to seek supervision or assistance as needed.


American Occupational Therapy Association. (2015). Occupational therapy code of ethics (2015). American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 59 (Suppl. 3).

American Physical Therapy Association (2009). Code of Ethics for the Physical Therapist, Alexandria, VA: APTA.

American Psychological Association. (2017). Ethical principles of psychologists and code of conduct (2002, Amended June 1, 2010 and January 1, 2017). Retrieved from

American Art Therapy Association, (2013) Ethical principles for art therapists American art therapy association, Inc. (2011, revised December 2013). Retrieved from

Art Therapies Credential Board (2016). Code of ethics, conduct, and disciplinary procedures. Retrieved from

Behnke, S. (2004). APA's new Ethics Code from a practitioner's perspective. Ethics Rounds, 35(4). Retrieved from

Dileo, C. (2000). Ethical thinking in music therapy, Cherry Hill, NJ: Jeffrey Books.

Fellman, S.J. (2018). Will your code of ethics get your association in trouble? Online webinar, GKG Law, June 28, 2018

Fisher (2003) Decoding the ethics code: a practical guide for psychologists. London: Sage Publications

Josephson Institute of Ethics, The Seven-step path to better decisions. Making ethical decisions. Retrieved from

Ling, T.J., & Hauck, J.M. (2017). The ETHICS model: Comprehensive, ethical decision making. VITAS online retrieved from stas/the-ethics-model

Members of the 2018 Ethics Board (authors)

  • Carol L. Shultis, Co-chair
  • Janice Schreibman, Co-chair
  • Barbara Bastable
  • Debra Dacus
  • Jennifer DeBedout
  • Jamie George
  • Kevin Hahn
  • Jennifer Sokira

Note. This document replaces the AMTA Code of Ethics (2014), revised 2018, previously published at This Code of Ethics effective February 1, 2019.


Appendix I - Glossary of terms

Definitions of Terms Used within the Code of Ethics

Core Values

Core Values are the fundamental beliefs of a person or organization. These guiding principles dictate behavior and can help people understand the difference between right and wrong. Core Values also help companies to determine if they are on the right path and fulfilling their goals by creating an unwavering guide. There are many different types of Core Values in the world, depending upon the context.

Kindness - 1: the quality or state of being kind //treating people with kindness and respect 2: a kind deed : FAVOR//They did me a great kindness.

Social Responsibility - Social responsibility is an ethical theory, in which individuals are accountable for fulfilling their civic duty; the actions of an individual must benefit the whole of society. In this way, there must be a balance between economic growth and the welfare of society and the environment. If this equilibrium is maintained, then social responsibility is accomplished. In terms of AMTA, social responsibility can be operationalized by our actions:

  1. As business owners, we consider our clients’ well-being first,
  2. As employees, we consider our client’s well-being first,
  3. As employers, we consider our employees and equip them to meet the needs of their clients,
  4. As educators and clinical trainers, we provide for quality education and protect our students from harm,
  5. As music therapists, we honor our profession by considering what action benefits the profession and our fellow music therapists.

Dignity - 1: formal reserve or seriousness of manner, appearance, or language 2: the quality or state of being worthy, honored, or esteemed 3a: high rank, office, or position b: a legal title of nobility or honor

Respect - 1a: to consider worthy of high regard : ESTEEM b: to refrain from interfering with please respect their privacy 2: to have reference to : CONCERN

Equality - "the state of being equal." It's one of the ideals of a democratic society, and so the fight to attain different kinds of equality, like racial equality, gender equality, or equality of opportunity between rich and poor, is often associated with progress toward that ideal of everyone being truly equal.

Accountability - : the quality or state of being accountable especially an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one's actions

Excellence - 1: the quality of being excellent 2: an excellent or valuable quality : VIRTUE

Integrity - 1: firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values : INCORRUPTIBILITY 2: an unimpaired condition : SOUNDNESS 3: the quality or state of being complete or undivided : COMPLETENESS

Courage - : mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty


a: a comprehensive and fundamental law, doctrine, or assumption b (l): a rule or code of conduct (2): habitual devotion to right principles

Respect and dignity for the rights of all - acknowledge the worth of all people and reflect sensitivity in all interactions

Acting with compassion - manifestation of patience, wisdom, and genuine desire to help meet the needs of others and self

Being accountable - encompasses the obligation to report, explain, and be answerable for resulting consequences

Demonstrating integrity and veracity - to act with truthfulness and accuracy in all communications.

Dual Relationship - occurs when a music therapist has a second, significantly different relationship with a current or former client (or client guardian or decision-maker), a student, or intern in clinical training, in addition to the traditional client-therapist or student-teacher/trainer relationship. This may be a professional relationship, such as playing the part of both music therapist and teacher; or, it may be of a nonprofessional nature, as in the case of a music therapist, educator, or clinical trainer who is also a friend or intimate partner of the person seeking therapy or of a student in an educational or clinical training program.

Members of AMTA who hold the credential MT-BC - The credential Music Therapist Board Certified (MT-BC) is granted by the Certification Board for Music Therapists (CBMT) to identify music therapists who have demonstrated the knowledge, skills and abilities necessary to practice music therapy at the current level of the profession. The purpose of board certification in music therapy is to provide an objective national standard that can be used as a measure of professionalism by interested agencies, groups, and individuals.

Music therapy students and interns - individuals working towards the MT-BC credential in an AMTA-approved college or university, national roster internship or university affiliated internship.

Professional Boundaries - provide the framework for healthy relationships between healthcare providers individuals being served.

Sentinel event - any unanticipated event in a healthcare setting resulting in death or serious physical or psychological injury to a patient or patients, not related to the natural course of the patient’s illness. Such an event is called sentinel because it signals a need for an immediate investigation and response.

Standards - an idea or thing used as a measure, norm, or model in comparative evaluations.

Striving for excellence - ongoing commitment to expand our knowledge and skills in all areas

Tribunal - A tribunal is a special court or committee that is appointed to deal with particular problems.

Substantiated - Provide evidence to support or prove the truth of.

Unsubstantiated - not established as valid or genuine

Public Laws

Pub. L. 104-191 - Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act - includes important information about confidentiality of patient information and required protections

Pub. L. 93-380 - Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act - includes important information about requirements for maintaining and accessing educational records.

Sherman Act (1937) - Antitrust Law "The Sherman Act outlaws "every contract, combination, or conspiracy in restraint of trade," and any "monopolization, attempted monopolization, or conspiracy or combination to monopolize... Long ago, the Supreme Court decided that the Sherman Act does not prohibit every restraint of trade, only those that are unreasonable. For instance, in some sense, an agreement between two individuals to form a partnership restrains trade, but may not do so unreasonably, and thus may be lawful under the antitrust laws. On the other hand, certain acts are considered so harmful to competition that they are almost always illegal. These include plain arrangements among competing individuals or businesses to fix prices, divide markets, or rig bids. These acts are "per se" violations of the Sherman Act; in other words, no defense or justification is allowed."

Title IX - The U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) enforces, among other statutes, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. Title IX protects people from discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive Federal financial assistance. Title IX states that: No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.


Accountability, Courage, Core Value, Dignity, Equality, Excellence, Integrity, Kindness, Principle — Definitions from (n.d.) In Merriam-Webster Dictionary online. Retrieved from

Dual relationship (2015, August 6). Adapted definition based on in online. Retrieved from

Equality definition from

MT-BC (2011). MT-BC Fact Sheet. Retrieved from

Professional Boundaries (2017, Dec. 12). Professional Boundaries in Mental Health Care. Retrieved from

Sentinel event - adapted from definition from the Joint Commission

Social Responsibility -

Standards -


Tribunal -

Unsubstantiated -

Appendix II - Ethical Decision-Making Models

Ethical Decision Making

When we increase our awareness of the components of ethical behavior, it is easy to see ethical concerns in many places in our lives. Because ethical issues can arise in both our professional and personal lives, it is helpful to have resources to help navigate these issues. There are many models for ethical decision making available in the literature. In music therapy, Dileo (2000) outlined a 12-step model that is a compilation of several other approaches to addressing ethical dilemmas. This model gives a detailed, step-by-step process for clarifying, exploring and resolving ethical problems. For details, please consult Dileo, C. (2000). Ethical Decision Making in Music Therapy. Cherry Hill, NJ: Jeffrey Books.

Ethical Decision-Making Model (Dileo, 2000)
  1. Identify the problem, issues and practices involved.
  2. Assess the obligations owed and to whom.
  3. Assess your personal/emotional response.
  4. Consult core ethical principles, ethical standards and codes, relevant laws, and institutional policies.
  5.  Consider the context and setting.
  6.  Identify your own beliefs and values and their role in this situation, as well as those of the client.
  7. Consult with colleagues, supervisors and all possible resources.
  8. Consider how the ideal, virtuous therapist might respond.
  9. Generate possible solutions, utilizing the input of the client when feasible.
  10. Evaluate each proposed solution in terms of possible consequences and make a decision.
  11. Implement the decision.
  12. Evaluate the decision.

Used with permission, Jeffrey Books


The RIPS Model

Our colleagues in physical therapy have been using a four-step decision-making process as their guide for addressing ethical concerns. The authors suggest a four-step decision-making process using: (1) recognize and define the ethical issues, (2) reflect, (3) decide the right thing to do, and (4) implement, evaluate, and reassess. The first step uses the RIPS model outlined in the table below. The details of this model can be found in a publication of the Section on Health Policy and Administration of the American Physical Therapy Association. (Swisher, L.L., Arslanian, L.E., & Davis, D.M., 2005). The Realm-Individual Process-Situation (RIPS) Model of ethical decision-making, HPA Resource, 5(3), 1-8).

Components of the RIPS Model
Realm 2-3 Individual Process 4-5 Situation 1-6






Moral sensitivity

Moral judgment

Moral motivation

Moral courage


Issue or problem






  1. Purtilo RB. Ethical Dimensions in the Health Professions. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier;2005.
  2. Glaser JW. Three realms of ethics: An integrative map of ethics for the future. In Purtilo RB, Jensen GM, and Royeen CB, eds. Educating for Moral Action: A Sourcebook in Health and Rehabilitation Ethics. Philadelphia, PA: FA Davis, 2005; 169-184.
  3. Glaser J W. Three Realms of Ethics: Individual Institutional Societal: Theoretical Model and Case Studies. Lanham. MD: Rowman and Littlefield: 1994.
  4. Rest JR, Narvaez D, eds. Moral Development in the Professions: Psychology and Applied Ethics. Hillsdale, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers; 1994.
  5. Rest JR, Narvaez D, Bebeau MJ, and Thoma SJ. Postconventional Moral Thinking: A Neo- Kohlbergian Approach. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates; 1999.
  6. Kidder RM. How Good People Make Tough Choices: Resolving the Dilemmas of Ethical Living. New York, NY. Fireside, 1995.

Making An Ethical Decision

Recognize an Ethical Issue
  1. Could this decision or situation be damaging to someone or to some group? Does this decision involve a choice between a good and bad alternative, or perhaps between two "goods" or between two "bads"?
  2. Is this issue about more than what is legal or what is most efficient? If so, how?
Get the Facts
  1.  What are the relevant facts of the case? What facts are not known? Can I learn more about the situation? Do I know enough to make a decision?
  2. What individuals and groups have an important stake in the outcome? Are some concerns more important? Why?
  3. What are the options for acting? Have all the relevant persons and groups been consulted? Have I identified creative options?
Evaluate Alternative Actions
  1. Evaluate the options by asking the following questions:
  • Which option will produce the most good and do the least harm? (The Utilitarian Approach)
  • Which option best respects the rights of all who have a stake? (The Rights Approach)
  • Which option treats people equally or proportionally? (The Justice Approach)
  • Which option best serves the community as a whole, not just some members? (The Common Good Approach)
  • Which option leads me to act as the sort of person I want to be? (The Virtue Approach)
Make a Decision and Test It
  1. Considering all these approaches, which option best addresses the situation?
  2. If I told someone I respect—or told a television audience—which option I have chosen, what would they say?
Act and Reflect on the Outcome
  1. How can my decision be implemented with the greatest care and attention to the concerns of all stakeholders?
  2. How did my decision turn out and what have I learned from this specific situation?

Ethical Decision Making Model - Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, Santa Clara University, Retrieved from

Appendix III - Implementation and Enforcement of the AMTA Code of Ethics

Responsibilities of the Ethics Board

The AMTA Ethics Board exists to promote ethical conduct by music therapists and trainees/students under their supervision at the highest professional level through development and sponsorship of educational activities, to provide consultation to members regarding ethical concerns, to investigate complaints concerning the ethical conduct of members, and to impose sanctions as warranted when a violation of the Code has occurred.

Helpful terms

Grievant - Individual or entity who submits a complaint or concern

Respondent - Individual or entity named in the ethics complaint, responsible for the alleged violation

Hushmail - The preferred method of contacting members of the Ethics Board is through Hushmail, a confidential, encrypted email service at the address

Implementation and Enforcement

I.  Confidentiality and Notifications
  1. All information concerning grievances against members shall be confidential. Ethics Board members may disclose information about a grievance only if compelled by a valid subpoena or when otherwise required by law. Information about a grievance may also be released when necessary to protect the interests of a) the Grievant or Respondent, b) other investigative or adjudicative bodies, c) the Association, or d) members of the public, and release will not unduly interfere with the Association's interest in respecting the legitimate confidentiality interests of participants in the ethics process.
  2. Information, including confidential information, may be shared with legal Counsel of the Association, with the Association's Executive Director, and with others duly appointed persons authorized by the Board to assist it in carrying out its functions.
  3. The principles of confidentiality do not prevent the Ethics Chairperson or members of the Ethics Board or Hearing Panel from communicating any information to the Grievant, Respondent, witnesses, or other sources of information to the extent necessary to facilitate the performance of any functions necessary to achieve resolution.
  4. Notification of the final disposition of an ethics grievance shall be given to the Grievant, the Respondent, and in the case of loss of membership due to a violation, to the membership. Notification may also be given to additional parties as requested by the Respondent. Notification of the final disposition of an ethics grievance shall contain the following information: the ethical standard(s) judged to have been violated and the sanction prescribed. Neither the facts of the investigation nor the rationale for a sanction shall be disclosed to any party; except that the rationale may be disclosed to the respondent.
II.  Records
  1. Files of the Ethics Review Board related to investigation and adjudication of cases shall be confidential, within the limitations of Section 1 of this part, and shall be maintained consistent with these Operating Rules.
  2. Investigation records containing personally identifiable information shall be maintained for at least five years after a matter is closed. In cases in which members have lost membership, records shall be maintained indefinitely.
  3. These principles do not preclude the Ethics Review Board from maintaining records in a secure place for archival or record keeping purposes, or from using or publishing information concerning ethics matters for educative purposes provided that individuals named in the records are not identified.
III.  Jurisdiction
  1. The Ethics Board has jurisdiction over individual professional members of the Association and jurisdiction over student members, but only to the extent that the conduct at issue is not under the direct supervision of the student's educational program or of a training site that is officially approved by the program or association as part of the student's supervised training.
  2. The Ethics Board may consider grievances brought by members of the Association against other members, by nonmembers, and by students. The Board may not consider anonymous grievances.
  3. The Ethics Board may initiate a sua sponte complaint (action without formal Grievant) after discovering that any of the following actions has become final: 1) a felony conviction, 2) a finding of malpractice by a duly authorized tribunal, 3) an expulsion or suspension from a state licensing body for unethical conduct, or 4) a revocation, suspension, or surrender of certification for ethical violations. An Ethics Board Hearing Panel will be convened to discuss the violation(s) and determine sanctions in any of these cases.
  4. In the event that a respondent resigns from the Association subsequent to the filing of a complaint against him or her, the Ethics Board shall have discretion to resolve the complaint as if the respondent were still a member.
  5. In the event that a complaint is filed against a respondent who was an AMTA member at the time of the alleged violation but who is not currently a member of AMTA, the Code of Ethics will be deemed to apply to the respondent.
  6. In the event that a member or former member declines to participate in Ethics Board processes, the Ethics Board may unilaterally investigate and recommend sanctions.
  7. Civil litigation, criminal litigation, and disciplinary proceedings involving members shall not bar action by the Ethics Board; at the discretion of the Chairperson, the Ethics Board may proceed or may stay the ethics process during the course of litigation. Delay in conducting the Ethic Board's investigation during a pending proceeding shall not constitute waiver of jurisdiction. When another body or tribunal has investigated the same allegations and found no merit to the allegations, the Ethics Board may, in its discretion, decide not to open a matter or, if the matter has already been opened, the Ethics Board may close the matter.
  8. The Ethics Board may at any time refer an ethics matter to another recognized tribunal for appropriate action. If a case is referred to another tribunal, the Ethics Board may retain jurisdiction and consider the matter independently.
IV.  Correspondence and Documentation
  1. The Ethics Board shall conduct its business through correspondence, in a manner designed to (a) maintain confidentiality; (b) ensure clarity in communication; and (c) maintain records of inquiries and hearings. To these ends, the Ethics Board will avoid using unsecured email correspondence, public conversations, or postal mail without a signed receipt to conduct business. Phone consultations are preferable for advising and gathering initial information about complaints.
  2. Although the Respondent has the right to consult with an attorney concerning all phases of the ethics process, the Respondent must respond to charges and recommendations of the Ethics Board personally and not through legal counsel or another third party. If the Respondent shows good cause as to why he or she cannot respond personally, the Chairperson may waive this requirement.  As noted below, the Respondent has the right to appear with counsel at any formal hearing. 
  3. Where an individual or entity submits to the Ethics Board information contained in an audiotape, videotape or similar medium, the individual or entity will provide an accurate transcription of the information. The Chairperson may reject any audiotape, videotape, or similar data compilation when it is unaccompanied by a transcription.
V.  Procedures for addressing ethical concerns
  1. Consultation & Clarification: Music therapists can request a consult at any time to explore whether a particular situation is a violation of the AMTA Code of Ethics. The AMTA Ethics Board members are knowledgeable about ethics, the AMTA Code of Ethics, and models of problem solving. They are committed to helping music therapists develop and maintain virtuous practices. Members may initiate contact via the AMTA Ethics Board Contact Form available at
  2. Informal Resolution
    1. If an individual is aware of an ethics violation involving an AMTA member and believes harm has or will occur to a person or organization, this member (Grievant) is directed to contact the Respondent directly to address the concern.
    2. The Grievant may contact the Ethics Board for guidance (see above), however, the Grievant, at this stage, is not required to file a written complaint with the Ethics Board. If this Informal Resolution does not resolve the concern, the Grievant is directed to file a formal grievance as per the following instructions.
  3. How to file an ethical grievance
    1. If an individual is aware of an ethics violation involving an AMTA member and believes harm has or will occur to a person or organization, and if attempts at informal resolution have not been effective in resolving the concern, or direct contact with the Respondent is not advisable or is not possible, that individual (Grievant) should contact the Ethics Board for additional assistance. This contact should be initiated via the AMTA Ethics Board Contact Form on the AMTA website. The grievance must be filed within three years of the last instance of the alleged violation(s) of this Code. No time limit applies to violations of the Code for which substantiated reports are received by the Ethics Board from external tribunals after the three-year period noted above.
    2. The Grievant will be assigned to a member of the AMTA Ethics Board and together they will explore the situation in question. The Ethics Board member will verify membership status of the Respondent by contacting the Executive Director of AMTA.
    3. The AMTA Ethics Board will review and substantiate information gathered and act as a negotiator or mediator, as appropriate, between the Grievant and Respondent.
      (Note: Respondent non-membership shall not preclude the Ethics Board member from working with and advising the Grievant, however, no additional action is possible with the Respondent as AMTA has no jurisdiction over non-members.)
  4. Ethics Board Response to Grievances
    1. If the written grievance is not already assigned to a member of the Ethics Board (via consultation and informal discussions), the grievance will be assigned to an Ethics Board member.
    2. This member will contact the Grievant to gather further information about the concern and to discuss possible avenues for resolution.
      1. Consultation - the Ethics Board member will assist the Grievant in resolving concerns without need to contact other parties.
      2. Negotiated resolution – the Ethics Board member work will with both Grievant and Respondent to find an agreeable resolution. The Ethics Board member may consult with other members of the Ethics Board to consider possible resolutions and offer same to both parties seeking to find agreement.
      3. Mediation  -  the Ethics Board member (and often a second member) will schedule a mediation session between the parties (in-person, via audio or video conferencing as is appropriate.)
      4. Formal Hearing -  when a resolution agreement cannot be achieved via any other method, a formal hearing will be scheduled. Processes for this formal hearing follow.
  5. Formal Hearing Process
    1. The Grievant will submit a written, signed document following the Guidelines for AMTA Grievance submission (see end of document). The grievance must be made within three years of the last instance of the alleged violation(s) of this code.
    2. The Ethics Board Chairperson will serve as Chair for the Hearing Panel or appoint another member along with up to two additional members to hear the case.
    3. Upon decision to move the grievance to the Formal Hearing Process, the Ethics Board Hearing Panel Chair, in consultation with the Ethics Board Chairperson and the Executive Director of AMTA, will advise the Respondent, in writing, that the Formal Hearing Process has been initiated to address an ethics grievance made against the Respondent. Included in this notification will be a copy of the signed complaint. The Ethics Board Hearing Panel Chair will invite the Respondent to submit a written defense.  The written defense must be submitted to the Ethics Board by the Respondent within sixty (60) days of the date on the complaint.  The process will continue to move forward within 60 days after notification has been sent to the Respondent.
    4. After the sixty-day period for responding to the complaint has expired, the Ethics Board Hearing Panel Chair will continue to work toward a resolution for 45 additional days in order to reach a negotiated resolution. If this is not possible, the formal hearing will be scheduled.
    5. At the conclusion of the additional 45-day period the Ethics Board Hearing Panel Chair will inform, in writing, the Ethics Board Hearing Panel, the Executive Director of AMTA, the President of AMTA, the Grievant, and the Respondent that the formal hearing will be scheduled.
    6. At the formal hearing, both the Grievant and Respondent will be afforded opportunities to be heard.  The Ethics Board Hearing Panel may ask questions of both the Grievant and Respondent.  The Respondent may appear with counsel, who may ask questions and speak on behalf of the Respondent.  A transcript record will be made of the hearing.  Rules for the conduct of formal hearings may be issued by AMTA and these rules will be followed by the Grievant and Respondent.
    7. Group Grievances: If the Ethics Chairperson or designee receives more than one grievance related in a substantive way against the same party, the chair or designee may choose to combine the grievances into a single grievance, as long as there is no objection to such combination by the individual grievants. In this instance, the procedure heretofore established will remain the same.
      1. If two or more individuals report a grievance against the same party, they may report a group grievance. This will be handled as a single grievance, following established procedures.
      2. An employing agency may charge a MT with a violation of this Code of Ethics in the same manner as an individual grievant does so. The employing agency will appoint a representative to function in the role of grievant.
VI.  Actions & Resolutions
  1. Reprimand (private or public)
    1. Private Reprimand is appropriate when the violation has not caused serious professional or personal harm.
    2. Public Reprimand is appropriate when the violation is serious enough to warrant public knowledge of the issue. For example, a violation that involves students or trainees may be made public in order to protect future students or trainees.
    3. Corrective Action in Response to Reprimand may include educational requirements with specified altered behavior expectations. The Respondent may be asked to sign a binding agreement to conform clinical practice, education/training methods, or research methods to reflect AMTA principles of ethical behavior. Respondents may be asked to participate in rehabilitative activity such as educational courses, professional supervision or personal therapy. Failure to comply may result in further action.
  2. Sanctions in response to Formal Hearing Process
    1. Specific limitations on professional activity including denial of:
      1. participation at conferences,
      2. leadership roles within the Association (i.e., regional or national elected or appointed offices, membership on committees and boards, editorial roles),
      3. teaching continuing education courses at AMTA-sponsored events,
      4. national roster internship supervision,
      5. publication in association sponsored journals, and
      6. eligibility to receive AMTA awards or grants.
    2. Suspension or Termination of Membership in AMTA and regional chapters. Possible ban from state organizations when ethics code violations have caused serious personal or professional harm. Eligibility to renew membership may be automatic at the end of the sanction period where no further Ethics Board review is required for  assuring  that corrective actions have been taken to prevent further harm.
    3. Recommendation for withdrawal of professional credential or designation to the National Registry or Certification Board for Music Therapists as appropriate. This would include notification of state licensing boards as applicable.
  3. The Respondent may appeal the decision of the Ethics Board to the Judicial Review Board, by way of the following procedure:
    1. A written notice (in paper form) will be sent from the respondent to the Judicial Review Board notifying the Board that the respondent is appealing the decision.  The written notice must contain specific grounds upon which the appeal is based.
    2. The written notice must be received by the Judicial Review Board by no later than ninety (90) days from the date of the decision by the Ethics Board.
    3. No evidence, other than the contents of the written notice from the respondent and the evidence previously submitted during the Formal Resolution will be considered by the Judicial Review Board during the appeal.
    4. The Judicial Review Board will render a decision on the appeal within 60 (sixty) days of receiving the written notice from the respondent.
    5. The decision by the Judicial Review Board on the appeal will be final.


Adopted by the Assembly of Delegates November 17, 2018, Effective February 1, 2019,
Updated November 2019, © American Music Therapy Association



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