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Advanced Competencies

American Music Therapy Association
Advanced Competencies

Note: A Side-by-Side Comparison of changes made to this document from 2009 to 2015 can be found here.

1. Preamble

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. In November 2005 the AMTA Assembly of Delegates adopted the Advisory on Levels of Practice in Music Therapy that 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 and inform future music therapists. 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, RMT, or MT-BC), extensive professional experience, and/or further education and/or training (e.g., receiving clinical supervision, a graduate degree, and/or advanced training). 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. The advanced music therapist may not demonstrate competence in each of the areas of the Advanced Competencies, but would 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).

2. Advanced Competencies

A. Theory

1.1 Apply comprehensive, in-depth knowledge of the foundations and principles of music therapy practice.

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

1.3 Synthesize comprehensive knowledge of current theories and deduce their implications for music therapy practice, supervision, education and/or research.

1.4 Identify theoretical constructs from music therapy and related fields that underlie various clinical practices and research approaches.

1.5 Use current theoretical, clinical and research literature from music therapy and related fields to identify emerging models and to predict/propose future models and trends for music therapy.

1.6 Articulate and defend a personal philosophy, approach and/or theory to music therapy.

B.  Clinical Practice
2.0 Clinical Supervision

2.1 Establish and maintain effective supervisory relationships with supervisees.

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

2.3 Apply research findings and theories of supervision 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 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 diverse cultures to the supervisory process as indicated.

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 as indicated.

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 best practice music therapy reimbursement and financing options.

3.4 Develop staffing practices for effective delivery of music therapy services.

3.5 Develop effective recruiting and interviewing strategies.

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, symptomology, 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 form 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 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 Apply knowledge of social justice and disability studies in upholding the human rights of individuals served.

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

4.18 Recognize and apply comprehensive knowledge of contra-indications for music therapy interventions and seek consultation as indicated.

C. Academic Teaching and Administration

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

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

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

5.7 Establish and maintain effective student-teacher relationships.

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 program in meeting educational objectives.

D.  Research

6.1 Perform and evaluate the results of a comprehensive literature review 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 diverse research designs as appropriate to their intended uses.

6.4 Use various appropriate methods of data analysis.

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

6.6 Identify funding sources and 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 confounding factors.

6.9 Collaborate with others, including non-music therapists, in conducting research.

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

6.12 Evaluate research with regard to research questions and problems, methods, procedures, data collection, analysis, and conclusions.

A. Musical & Artistic Development

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

7.2 Design and employ a broad range of compositional experiences in order to address therapeutic needs.

7.3 Design a broad range of improvisational experiences and utilize a variety of clinical improvisation techniques for therapeutic purposes.

7.4 Improvise in a variety of musical styles.

7.5 Design and utilize a broad range of receptive music experiences for therapeutic purposes.

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

7.7 Select, adapt and utilize musical materials for different musical cultures and subcultures.

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

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

7.10 Design and employ a broad range of re-creative music experiences for therapeutic purposes.

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 as may be relevant to the music therapy process.

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

8.4 Practice strategies for self-care.

8.5 Recognize limitations in competence and seek consultation.

8.6 Apply the principles of effective leadership.

8.7 Implement music therapy approaches based on knowledge of and sensitivity to the roles and meanings of musics in diverse 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 Identify new applications of technology or develop new technologies for use in music therapy practice.

8.10 Stay apprised of current issues and trends in music therapy governance, ethics, scope of practice, certification and licensure.

3. Background Information

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 described four domains for the Advanced Level of Practice: Professional Growth, Musical Development, Personal Growth and Development, and Integrative Clinical Experience. 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.

The initial version of the Advanced Competencies was adopted by the AMTA Assembly of Delegates in 2007. Following feedback from a number of sources, including the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM), a revised version was submitted in 2009 for AMTA approval. In 2014, a task force of music therapy clinicians and educators was charged to review and revise Advanced Competencies for submission to the AMTA Assembly of Delegates for review. The Advanced Competencies are to be reviewed every 5 years.

The revised Advanced Competencies are intended to continue to 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.


The 2009 Task Force on Advanced Competencies gratefully acknowledged 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 this task force were Jane Creagan, Michele Forinash (Chair), Gary Johnson, Cathy McKinney, Christine Neugebauer, Paul Nolan, Marilyn Sandness, and Elizabeth Schwartz. Members of the 2014-2015 Task Force on Advanced Competencies were Jane Creagan, Jennifer Geiger (Chair), Betsey King, Robert Krout, Bill Matney and Christine Neugebauer.


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.

comprehensive – complete, including all or nearly all aspects of something; covering completely or broadly; having or exhibiting a wide mental grasp.1A

construct - a working hypothesis or concept.1B

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

experience - A client’s engagement with music, being primarily re-creative, improvisational, compositional, or receptive in nature.3 

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

research – “a systematic, self-monitored inquiry which leads to a discovery or new insight, which, when documented and disseminated, contributes to or modifies existing knowledge or practice”6B

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.

technique - "A single operation or interaction that a therapist uses to elicit an immediate reaction from a client or to shape the ongoing, immediate experience of the client."   

understanding - knowledge of or familiarity with a particular thing; skill in dealing with or handling something.8 Perception and comprehension of the nature and significance of.9


[1A] Merriam-Webster (2015). Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary. Retrieved May 1, 2015, from

[1B] 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] Bruscia, K. E. (2014) Defining music therapy (3rd ed.). University Park, IL: Barcelona Publishers, p.127.


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

[5] Bruscia, K. E. (2014) Defining music therapy (3rd ed.). University Park, IL: Barcelona Publishers, p.129.

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

[6B] (Bruscia, K. E., 1995, p. 21). The boundaries of music therapy research. In B.L.Wheeler (Ed.), Music therapy research: Quantitative and qualitative perspectives (pp.17-27). Gilsum, NH: Barcelona

[7] Bruscia, K. (2014) Defining music therapy (3rd ed.). University Park, IL: Barcelona Publishers, p.128.

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

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


Adopted 11/09

Revised, 11/15

2015 Revised Advanced Competencies are effective 8/1/17, per Assembly vote