Common characteristics of improvisational approaches in music therapy for children with autism spectrum disorder: Developing treatment guidelines

Monika Geretsegger, Ulla Holck, John A. Carpente, Cochavit Elefant, Jinah Kim, Christian Gold

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: Improvisational methods of music therapy have been increasingly applied in the treatment of individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) over the past decades in many countries worldwide. Objective: This study aimed at developing treatment guidelines based on the most important common characteristics of improvisational music therapy (IMT) with children affected by ASD as applied across various countries and theoretical backgrounds. Methods: After initial development of treatment principle items, a survey among music therapy professionals in 10 countries and focus group workshops with experienced clinicians in three countries were conducted to evaluate the items and formulate revised treatment guidelines. To check usability, a treatment fidelity assessment tool was subsequently used to rate therapy excerpts. Results: Survey findings and feedback from the focus groups corroborated most of the initial principles for IMT in the context of children with ASD. Unique and essential principles include facilitating musical and emotional attunement, musically scaffolding the flow of interaction, and tapping into the shared history of musical interaction between child and therapist. Raters successfully used the tool to evaluate treatment adherence and competence. Conclusions: Summarizing an international consensus about core principles of improvisational approaches in music therapy for children with ASD, these treatment guidelines may be applied in diverse theoretical models of music therapy. They can be used to assess treatment fidelity, and may be applied to facilitate future research, clinical practice, and training.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)258-281
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Music Therapy
Volume52
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2015

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was funded through a PhD fellowship awarded to M.G. from Aalborg University, and through the Research Council of Norway (grant no. 213844, the Clinical Research and the Mental Health Programmes).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 the American Music Therapy Association. All rights reserved.

Keywords

  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Improvisation
  • Music therapy
  • Treatment guidelines

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Complementary and Manual Therapy
  • Music

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