Implications of Technology in Music Therapy Practice and Research for Music Therapy Education: A Review of Literature

By Crowe, Barbara J.; Rio, Robin | Journal of Music Therapy, Winter 2004 | Go to article overview

Implications of Technology in Music Therapy Practice and Research for Music Therapy Education: A Review of Literature


Crowe, Barbara J., Rio, Robin, Journal of Music Therapy


This article reviews the use of technology in music therapy practice and research for the purpose of providing music therapy educators and clinicians with specific and accurate accounts of the types and benefits of technology being used in various settings. Additionally, this knowledge will help universities comply with National Association of Schools of Music requirements and help to standardize the education and training of music therapists in this rapidly changing area. Information was gathered through a literature review of music therapy and related professional journals and a wide variety of books and personal communications. More data were gathered in a survey requesting information on current use of technology in education and practice. This solicitation was sent to all American Music Therapy Association approved universities and clinical training directors. Technology applications in music therapy are organized according to the following categories: (a) adapted musical instruments, (b) recording technology, (c) electric/electronic musical instruments, (d) computer applications, (e) medical technology, (f) assisstive technology for the disabled, and (g) technology-based music/sound healing practices. The literature reviewed covers 177 books and articles from a span of almost 40 years. Recommendations are made for incorporating technology into music therapy course work and for review and revision of AMTA competencies. The need for an all-encompassing clinical survey of the use of technology in current music therapy practice is also identified.

As a professional discipline, music therapy has not extensively addressed the issue of educating students in technology pertinent to music therapy practice. There are two reasons why it is important to address this issue at this time. First, there is a general proliferation of technology in studying, learning, recording, and composing music, in medical practice and research, and also in serving the needs of individuals with disabilities. This makes technological applications of particular importance to music therapy practice. A comprehensive education of music therapy students now requires a broader and more complete training in technology relevant to music therapy practice and research.

Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language (1989) defines technology as "the branch of knowledge that deals with industrial arts, applied science, engineering, . . . the sum of the ways in which a social group provide themselves with the material objects of their civilization" (p. 1458). The word, technology, is derived from a Greek word meaning systematic treatment. Though it is often assumed in current usage that the term, technology, implies electronic devices only, in fact in music therapy it may involve any equipment, devise, or method that systematically fosters the production of or response to music.

The technological aspects of music therapy required for entrylevel training in music therapy are delineated in the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA) Professional Competencies (2003). This document states in point 7.4, "Demonstrate basic understanding of technologically advanced instruments (omnichord, MIDI, electronic keyboard)" (p. 2). The only implied reference Lo computer applications is in the section on research methods where point 23.4 states, "Perform a data-based literature search" (p-6).

In addition to the AMTA Professional Competencies, several other authors have proposed standards for professional music therapists. Taylor (1987) surveyed practicing music therapists to determine entry level competencies. He identified only two competencies that relate to technology, #42 and #60. These state, "Adapt materials or improvise activities using materials on hand" (p. 124) and "Operate and maintain electronic sound equipment" (p. 125). Bruscia (1986) lists as an advanced competency, "Ability to apply modern technology (e.g., computers) to music therapy assessment, treatment, and evaluation" (p. …

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