Work in Progress:

Developing Recommended Standards for Music Therapy Training in Europe

European Music Therapy Standards Commission

We would like to provide you with an update of our WORK IN PROGRESS toward suggested minimum standards for music therapy training in Europe. This process has not yet been completed. The following information is a summary of our work so far.

Music therapy in Europe is very varied and is influenced by different national cultures, traditions, approaches and other factors that influence not only the practice of music therapy but also training programs. Additionally, there are countries in which music therapy is legally regulated, countries in which the professional associations register qualified therapists and countries with neither regulation or registration as well as countries that are in the process of developing a music therapy profession in that country. With the possibility of living and working in different countries within Europe, transparency in the qualification process has become necessary (Nöcker-Ribaupierre, 2015; Ridder, Lerner & Suivini, 2015; Ridder & Tsiris, 2015).

The necessity for standards that provide the basis for safe and effective practice of music therapy has been a topic of discussion in the European Music Therapy Confederation (EMTC) since 1998. A first attempt to provide these standards was carried out by the European Music Therapy Register (EMTR) Commission, resulting in a register with defined requirements based on academic degrees in order to register (Nöcker-Ribaupierre, 2015). Very few European music therapists took advantage of this possibility (Fig. 1) (internal working papers EMTC, 2016).

Figure 1: Timeline of the EMTR 1998-2016

The European Music Therapy Standards (EMTS) Commission developed out of the European Music Therapy Register Commission. The process of the commission’s work can be seen below. The work began in 2017 when the decision was made to formulate minimum standards regarding suggested competencies necessary for entering the field of music therapy after completing a training program in music therapy (Figure 2).

Figure 2: First steps toward developing minimum standards

In 2018 a survey was developed to be sent to all training programs in Europe, both academic and private programs. This gave a basis for a common platform of standards for music therapy training across Europe. In addition to general information about the training program (Figure 3), questions were asked regarding intensity, contents and competencies/learning outcomes in 12 different areas of study.

Figure 3: Survey results, general information (Fuchs, 2020)

The answers received were extensive and complex and required 4 stages of analysis and work. An important point of reference in this work has been the orientation to the European Qualification Framework (EQF). The steps taken are shown in Figure 4.

Figure 4: Steps toward the formulation of core competencies for music therapy training outcomes

This work was presented at a round table at the EMTC Conference 2022 in Edinburgh. An example from one category, the area of music therapy can be seen in Figure 5. Here, subcategories of the main category “Music Therapy” have been identified.

Figure 5: Subcategories for the area of study “Music Therapy”

For each of the subcategories, core competencies and learning outcomes were defined on the basis of the data analysis. An example can be found in Figure 6. Please note: this is only an example and does not contain all competencies and learning outcomes for this subcategory.

Figure 6: Examples of competencies and learning outcomes for one category of the area of study “Music Therapy”

It is important to note that the standards will be competency-based, not qualification-based. Specific theories, philosophical stances, approaches or methods are not referred to in the standards; rather, the competencies necessary for safe and effective music therapy practice are defined. The competencies that will be published after the completion of our work are suggested standards regardless of the theoretical background or approach of the therapist.

These competencies should be viewed within a bigger picture: They serve as the basis for safe and effective practice after the students’ graduation. However, they should also be seen in the broader picture of lifelong learning, further qualification and specializations (Figure 7).

Figure 7: EMTS-standards as the basis for further qualification

The EMTS-Commission considers that these competencies will be an important step toward high-quality music therapy in Europe, and will support the development of the profession of music therapy in countries where the profession is emerging. The competencies enable the traditions, cultures and political situations of the countries to be taken into consideration in the development/further development music therapy in that country. The EMTS-Commission also considers that the standards will provide countries in which the profession already exists with an incentive for further development of their existing training programs.


EMTS-Commission. (2022, June 08-12). Round Table. Music therapy training in Europe: a “disturbance” in the development of recommendations for minimum standards? 12th European Music Therapy Conference 2022, Edinburgh, Scotland.

Fuchs, F. (2020). Chances, Challenges, Perspectives. An updated insight into the spectrum of music therapy training courses across Europe. (Unpublished Diploma Thesis). Universität für Musik und darstellende Kunst Wien.

Nöcker-Ribaupierre, M. (2015). The European Music Therapy Confederation: History and development. Approaches: Music Therapy & Special Music Education, Special Issue 7(1). 23-29.

Ridder, H.M. & Tsiris, G. (Hrsg.). (2015). Music Therapy in Europe: Paths of Professional Development. Approaches: Music Therapy & Special Music Education, Special Issue 7(1).

Ridder, H.M., Lerner, A., & Suvini, 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.

Suggestion for Citation:

EMTS-Commission. (2023). Work in Progress: Developing Recommended Standards for Music Therapy Training in Europe.

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The EMTS Commission