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In this article, we advance our support for a methods-based approach to music therapy undergraduate education and training. We review the population-based approach upon which the profession was founded in the United States and that continues to be emphasized in many degree programs across the country. Next, we explain the nature of a methods-based approach, in which students consistently and authentically engage in the four music therapy methods (Bruscia, 2014) as their predominant means of understanding clinical practice. Lastly, we highlight certain limitations of the population-based perspective and advance certain benefits of the methods-based perspective. We claim that the latter approach upholds the client’s personhood and agency, helps students to develop reflexivity necessary for professional competence, and is compatible with all theoretical orientations to clinical practice. We argue also that the methods-based approach better equips students for 21st Century practice, which is characterized by a diversity of clientele with complex profiles and care needs. In sum, we advocate for a methods-based curriculum derived from a music-focused, experiential learning perspective, in which music is considered a music therapist’s primary realm of understanding and action and their distinctive way of joining with a client to help them attain optimal health and wellbeing.


This is a pre-publication version of the article published by OUP at

Susan C Gardstrom, PhD, MT-BC, James Hiller, PhD, MT-BC, Annie Heiderscheit, PhD, MT-BC, LMFT, Nancy L Jackson, PhD, MT-BC, Music Therapy Pre-internship Education and Training: Support for a Methods-Based Approach, Music Therapy Perspectives, Volume 40, Issue 1, Spring 2022, Pages 14–22, https://doi.org/10.1093/mtp/miab026

Available for download on Friday, December 29, 2023

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