Frequently Asked Questions

Find answers to questions about Music Therapy in general and the EMTC in particular

Music therapy can be described in general as a profession in which a qualified music therapist uses music and musical activities (receptive and/or active) to meet the therapeutic needs of an individual client within the relationships that develop through shared musical experiences between therapist and client (Bonde, 2019; Wigram et al. 2002). 


There is no single definition of music therapy. The theories behind and practices of music therapy can vary greatly from country to country and from client population to client population. These variations have to do with cultural influences as well as with traditions of music therapy and background philosophies and theories used by the therapists (Bonde, 2019; Ridder et al., 2015). 


The profession of music therapy interfaces with many other disciplines. Not only disciplines within the field of music such as music psychology and music education are relevant here. Other therapeutic fields such as occupational therapy and psychotherapy interface with music therapy as do psychology in general, medicine, special education and anthropology (Bonde, 2019). 


The process of therapy is influenced greatly by the client population with whom the therapist is working. Music therapists may work with various client groups, for example persons with rehabilitative needs, with chronic disabilities or illnesses, with persons striving to achieve better quality of life.  Not only the needs of the clients, which can be very different, must be considered. It is also very important to consider their potentials (Bonde, 2019). 


The process of music therapy is also influenced by the approach used and the institutional setting in which it takes place. These settings are often, but not only, located within the health system. Music therapists can also work in schools (e.g. for children with special needs) or in the social system of a country.  Many music therapists working in institutions work in interdisciplinary teams. In these institutions, different aspects of client needs can be addressed by different professionals through their expertise. Ideally, goals are jointly formulated with each profession, also the music therapist, contributing to the well-being of the client (Bonde, 2019; Twyford & Watson, 2008).


One person who has greatly influenced the definition of music therapy is Kenneth Bruscia. In his newer definition of music therapy from 2013, we find the description of the therapist to be of a person who, in collaboration with the client, seeks to help the client optimize his well-being instead of being the person who primarily promotes change. This definition is as follows:

Music therapy is a reflexive process wherein the therapist helps the client to optimize the client’s health, using music experiences and the relationships formed through them as the impetus for change. As defined here, music therapy is the professional practice component of the discipline, which informs and is informed by theory and research. (Bruscia, 2013, p. 138)


The World Federation of Music Therapy (WFMT) has also developed a definition of music therapy that is very broadly stated:

Music therapy is the professional use of music and its elements as an intervention in medical, educational, and everyday environments with individuals, groups, families, or communities who seek to optimize their quality of life and improve their physical, social, communicative, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual health and wellbeing. Research, practice, education, and clinical training in music therapy are based on professional standards according to cultural, social, and political contexts. 

(WFMT, 2011)

Author: Melanie Voigt


Bonde, L.O. (2019). Definitions of Music Therapy. In: S. L. Jacobsen, I.N. Pedersen & L.O. Bonde (Eds.). A Comprehensive Guide to Music Therapy (2nd ed.) (Pp. 29-39). London: Jessica Kingsley. 

Bruscia, K. (2013). Defining Music Therapy (3rd Edition). Gilsum, N.H.: Barcelona Publishers.

Ridder, H.M., Lerner, A., & Suivini, F. (2015). The role of the EMTC for development and recognition of the music therapy profession. Approaches: Music Therapy & Special Music Education, Special Issue 7(1). 13-22.

Twyford, K. & Watson, T. (Eds.). (2008). Integrated Team Working. Music Therapy as part of Transdisciplinary and Collaborative Approaches. London: Jessica Kingsley.

WFMT (World Federation of Music Therapy) (2008-2017). What is Music Therapy? Verfügbar unter: https://wfmt.info/wfmt-new-home/about-wfmt/ [14.09.2020] .

Wigram, T., Pedersen, I. N. & Bonde, L. O. (Eds.). (2002). A Comprehensive Guide to Music Therapy. Theory, Clinical Practice, Research and Training,  London. Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Music therapy and music education are two related, but different fields of work. 

One of the largest differences between the two can be seen in the goals that are pursued in their applications. The aims of music education are to promote musical knowledge and skills. The basic aim of music therapy is to use music in working within a musical and therapeutic relationship  to meet non-musical, therapeutic needs of the client. One factor determining whether music therapy or music education is used depends, then, on the goals that are to be reached.  However, this is not an “either/or” situation. We find studies in which the use of and participation in music education activities show positive effects in non-musical skills such as cognition and social behaviour, even though these extra-musical goals are not the reason that music education is used. On the other hand, a music therapist may use pedagogical techniques to achieve therapeutic goals. An example here could be working in music therapy with a group of clients in order to prepare for a common musical performance. The therapeutic goals of this intervention could be the promotion of self-esteem and self-identity (Bonde, 2019; Holck, 2019; Oerter & Bruhn, 2005; Bruhn, 2005). 

Whereas different factors play a role in determining whether music therapy or music education is used (e.g. the institutional framework and the clientele to be worked with, the purpose of the institution and the goals set for the clients and the qualification of the professionals), the differentiation cannot be made due to only one of these factors. Rather, we must see music therapy and music education as complementary phenomena on a continuum. This becomes very evident when music therapy is used in a context of special education (Bonde, 2019; Bruhn, 2005; Plahl & Koch-Temming, 2005). 

Author: Melanie Voigt


Bonde, L.O. (2019). Definitions of Music Therapy. In: S. L. Jacobsen, I.N. Pedersen & L.O. Bonde (Eds.). A Comprehensive Guide to Music Therapy (2nd Ed.) (Pp. 29-39). London: Jessica Kingsley

Bruhn, H. (2005) Musik und Therapie. In R. Oerter & T. Stoffe (Hrsg.). Enzyklopädie der Psychologie. Spezielle Musikpsychologie. Musikpsychologie 2. (S. 631) Göttingen: Hogrefe.

Holck, U. (2019). Music Therapy for Adolescents and Adults with Developmental Disabilities. In: S. L. Jacobsen, I.N. Pedersen & L.O. Bonde (Eds.). A Comprehensive Guide to Music Therapy (2nd Ed.) (S. 272-282). London: Jessica Kingsley.

Oerter, R. & Bruhn, H. (2005). Musikpsychologie in Erziehung und Unterricht. In: R. Oerter & T. Stoffe (Hrsg.). Enzyklopädie der Psychologie. Spezielle Musikpsychologie. Musikpsychologie 2. (P. 555-624). Göttingen: Hogrefe.

Plahl, C., & Koch-Temming, H. (2005): Musiktherapie mit Kindern – Grundlagen – Methoden – Praxisfelder, Bern: Verlag Hans Huber.

Ansdell (2013) suggests that we view the field of music and health as a continuum between the applications and roles of music in everyday life and those of music in ‘specialist life’ (i.e., music therapy). A key to the definition of music therapy is that it takes place in a musical relationship between a music therapist and client(s) (Bruscia, 2014). Listening to music at home is thus not defined as music therapy because it is not performed together with a music therapist. However, many people find music listening therapeutic, and music listening is commonly used in everyday life by individuals to regulate emotions, energy levels and states of stress, as a help to concentrate or as a motivator for work or movement (DeNora, 2016; Skånland, 2011, 2013). Music listening can also be used as an aid to sleep or manage mental and physical pain (Skånland, 2020). Ruud (2013) has thus described music listening at home as a musical ‘medicine chest’. 

While most people are competent music listeners in the sense that they know how different music effects them, particularly individuals prone to depression may listen to music in destructive ways, thus ending up feeling worse (Stewart et al., 2019). In such cases, a music therapist could be helpful in guiding the person and helping them to differentiate between engagement in music that reinforces well-being and music engagement that relates to measures of ill-health (McFerran & Saarikallio, 2014).

Author: Marie Strand Skånland,
Head of Research and Associate Professor
Ansgar University College


Ansdell, G. (2013). Foreword: To music’s health. In Musical life stories. Narratives on health musicking (Vol. 6, pp. 3–12). NMH-publikasjoner.

Bruscia, K. E. (2014). Defining music therapy (3rd ed). Barcelona Publishers.

DeNora, T. (2016). Music asylums: Wellbeing through music in everyday life. Routledge Taylor & Francis group.

McFerran, K. S., & Saarikallio, S. (2014). Depending on music to feel better: Being conscious of responsibility when appropriating the power of music. The Arts in Psychotherapy, 41(1), 89–97. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.aip.2013.11.007

Ruud, E. (2013). Can music serve as a “cultural immunogen”? An explorative study. International Journal of Qualitative Studies on Health and Well-Being, 8(1), 20597. https://doi.org/10.3402/qhw.v8i0.20597

Skånland, M. S. (2011). Use of Mp3-Players as a Coping Resource. Music and Arts in Action, 3(2), 15–33.

Skånland, M. S. (2013). A young woman’s narrative on the role of mobile music in coping with everyday life. In Musical life stories: Narratives on health musicking (Vol. 6, pp. 59–74). NMH-publikasjoner.

Skånland, M. S. (2020). “Music is something to cling to; a lifeline” – Music listening in managing life with chronic pain and anxiety. Approaches: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Music Therapy, Online First, 1–16.

Stewart, J., Garrido, S., Hense, C., & McFerran, K. (2019). Music Use for Mood Regulation: Self-Awareness and Conscious Listening Choices in Young People With Tendencies to Depression. Frontiers in Psychology, 10, 1199. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.01199

A key to the definition of music therapy is that it takes place in a musical relationship between a music therapist and client(s) (Bruscia, 2014). Simply put, then, listening to music and making music for wellbeing differs from music therapy as a professional practice because of the absence of a music therapist. Music making can still be experienced as therapeutic, as it can be linked to e.g., emotional expression, aesthetic experiences, empowerment, and purpose. Indeed, many individuals has experienced a state of ‘flow’ when making music, which is described by positive psychology as the optimal state of being (Csikszentmihalyi et al., 2014). As Ansdell (2013) suggests, it makes sense to view the field of music and health as a continuum between the applications and roles of music in everyday life and those of music in ‘specialist life’ (i.e., music therapy).


Marie Strand Skånland,
Head of Research and Associate Professor
Ansgar University College


Ansdell, G. (2013). Foreword: To music’s health. In: Bonde, L.O., Ruud, E., Skånland, M.S. & Trondalen, G. (Eds.), Musical life stories. Narratives on health musicking (Vol. 6, pp. 3–12). NMH-publikasjoner.

Bruscia, K. E. (2014). Defining music therapy (3rd ed). Barcelona Publishers.

Csikszentmihalyi M., Abuhamdeh S., Nakamura J. (2014) Flow. In: Csikszentmihalyi, M. (Ed.), Flow and the Foundations of Positive Psychology. Springer, Dordrecht. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-017-9088-8_15

Bonde, L.O., Ruud, E., Skånland, M.S. & Trondalen, G. (Eds.) (2013). Musical life stories: Narratives on health musicking (Vol. 6). NMH-publikasjoner.

The EMTC is a confederation of professional music therapy associations (i.e. associations of qualified, practising music therapists) in Europe. This means membership is open to associations or organisation, but not to individuals. If you want to join the EMTC community as an individual, the way to do it is to join a music therapy association in your country that is an EMTC member association. In 2022 membership includes  51 music therapy member associations representing 7329 European music therapists in 32 European countries. You can find a list of all EMTC member associations here: emtc-eu.com/member-associations.

Alternatively, click on a country here for information about all the associations there, and for contact details of the country representative, who will be able to help you with any questions you might have.

No, the EMTC does not have jurisdiction over national music therapy associations. However, the EMTC strives to provide a framework of orientation for the profession. It’s mission statement makes this very clear:


  • The EMTC is a confederation of professional music therapy associations, working actively to promote the further development of professional practice in Europe, and to foster exchange and collaboration between member countries. 
  • The overall purpose of the EMTC is to nurture mutual respect, understanding and exchange between music therapists in Europe. 



By gathering research, formulating guidelines for specific areas (e.g. online work during the Covid-pandemic, Continuing Professional Development, Minimum Standards of training, Supervision), and other activities, it aims to support music therapists in the member countries, encouraging them to develop further and to be engaged in contributing to the development of the profession in Europe. In this way, it also acknowledges the work of music therapists and their professional associations at the national level. The EMTC also promotes the attitude of being inclusive and acknowledges with this attitude the fact that music therapy has many facets that can be used to support clients. 

Author: Melanie Voigt

2013: Definitions of Music Therapy in the European countries


Music therapy is an independent, scientific-creative therapy method, orienting on the experiences, creativity and expression of the patient.”


“Music therapy in Belgium can be defined as a form of psychotherapy with a focus on a musical, form-giving exchange between therapist and patient, undertaken during musical improvisations or via listening to music. The therapeutic frame of thinking for this exchange is psychodynamic. It is based on psychological theory describing mental structures and processes such as found in the work of Freud (1925), Winnicott (1971), Klein (1948) and Bion (1962). This describes a therapeutic frame that makes use of specific psychoanalytic phenomena and interventions, such as transference, countertransference, holding, containment, projective identification, free-floating attention and reverie. These are important psychoanalytic concepts that sit beside specific music therapeutic phenomena such as therapeutic provocation, anticipating inner silence, musical reverie, post-resonation (De Backer 2008). All these phenomena are ways of describing how one person may interact with another, and also where interaction changes and becomes relationship.The therapeutic relationship between patient(s) and therapists(s) is at the centre of this thinking. In music psychotherapy it involves a process that relies on musical improvisation played by the patient and the music therapist. If the patient is not in a position to participate actively in the improvisation, we maintain that the musical improvisation is still present because treatment begins from the affective resonance of the patient. We believe that music takes place at the same level as the trauma experienced by the patient and thus is an ideal modality for treatment in this way.”


“Music therapy is an approach in psychotherapy in which music and musical improvisation are applied for intentional mediation of the body-mind-emotion connection in the process of experiencing and awakening to the consciousness of experiences, aiming at bringing positiveness, health and personal development .“


“Music therapy is the systematic use of music within a therapeutic relationship which aims at restoring, maintaining and furthering emotional, physical and mental health.Music therapy is a practice-oriented scientific discipline which is closely connected to other scientific disciplines, especially medicine, social sciences, psychology, musicology and pedagogy.Music therapyis an overarching term for different music therapy concepts which are psychotherapeutic in nature, in contrast to pharmacological and physical therapies.Different music therapy methods are respectively based on different psychological, psychotherapeutic or philosophical traditions, such as depth psychology, behaviourism, systemic, anthroposophical or holistic-humanistic approaches.”

(KasselerThesis of Music Therapy, 1998)


“Music therapy is the structured use of music, sound and movement to obtain therapeutic goals aimed at the restoration, maintenance, and development of mental, physical, and emotional health. In a systematic manner, a specially trained individual uses the properties and unique potentials of music and sound, and the relationship that develops through musical experiences to alter human behavior, to assist the individual to use his fullest potential, to communicate his uniqueness and to increase his well-being.”


“Music therapy is the scientific application of music for therapeutic purposes (Strobel, Huppman, 1991); it is the application of music and tools of its expression (sound, rhythm, melody, harmony, dynamics, etc.) in either individual or group relationships between a music therapist and a patient/client with the purpose of establishing and advancing relationships, communication, learning, cognition, mobility, expression, activity, or physical, mental and social health of an individual, thus encouraging their potential development and /or rejuvenation of functions and achieving a better quality of life.”


„Music therapy is a health care profession carried out by the qualified music therapist, helping people to improve (to maintain, restore, enhance) health through the use of music/ musical communication and the therapeutic relationship. Music therapy is an interdisciplinary profession that integrates music therapy, music, medicine, psychology, psychotherapy, special education and social work disciplines of knowledge and practice issues.

Music therapist – a person, in accordance with the requirements of formal music therapist who has acquired professional qualifications and meeting the requirements. The music therapist is a health care professional.”


„Music therapyconsists in using music to further, to develop and to re-establish people’s physical and mental balance.It mobilises resources and its aim is to optimise the quality of life through dealing with problems on a different level or through supporting a healing process.As a non-verbal means of expression and communication, music appeals to people’s emotions; it stimulates cognitive as well as social and creative abilities, which will in turn allow the person to deal with the conflicts and challenges in life.

Due to the different parameters of music, music therapy, whether active and/or receptive, generates intra-psychic and relational processes. According to the respective need, a qualified music therapist approaches these processes in verbal or non-verbal, in individual or group therapy sessions.

Music therapy is a form of psychotherapy. Depending on the various schools and on the music therapist’s own training, the methods used will be based on psychodynamic, behavioural, systemic, holistic-humanist and integrative concepts.”

The Netherlands

“Music therapy is a methodical form of treatment in which musical means within a therapeutical relationship is managed, to establish change, development, stabilization and acceptation  on an emotional, behavioral, cognitive, social or physical level.”


„Music Therapy:  Procedures which include using of music which is prepared  to increase and /or sustain  physical, emotional, psychosocial, behavioral, sensitive, cognitive, communicative, cultural, spiritual. developmental, musical and/or related  needs of client defined during process of examination/evaluation.  

It excludes as techniques: Behavioral,  cognitive-behavioral and psychodynamic therapies.”


“In general music therapy is seenas an expression oriented psychodynamic treatment containing different methods. They have in common the use of musical elements (including breath- and body perception) within the therapeutic relationship to restore, preserve and promote psychic, mental and physical health.” In addition, referring to Kasseler Thesis of Music Therapy, Germany

Estonia, Greece, Hungaryand Italy refer to the definition of the WFMT (1996)

„Music Therapy is the use of music and/or it’s musical elements (sound, rhythm, melody and harmony) by a qualified music therapist, with a client or group, in a process designed to facilitate and promote communication, relationships, learning, mobilization, expression, organization and other relevant therapeutic objectives, in order to meet physical, emotional, mental, social and cognitive needs. Music Therapy aims to develop potentials and/or restore functions of the individual so that he or she can achieve better intrapersonal and/or interpersonal integration and, consequently, a better quality of life, through prevention, rehabilitation or treatment.”

Collected by M. Nöcker-Ribaupierre 2013

The EMTC has a Core Board, consisting of a President, a Treasurer and a Secretary-General. The Core Board and three Regional Coordinators (North, MIddle and South) make up the Board.

Each member country has a Country Representative.

Country Representatives, in addition to liasing between the EMTC and member associations in their countries, also participate in one or more Action Teams. Current Action Teams include: Countinuing Professional Development (CPD), Public Relations (PR), Diversity & Inclusion, Supervision,  Recognition and Research.

The organogram below provides a visual overview of the organisational structure.