Music Therapy Standards of Clinical Practice

Continuing my practice of reviewing the documents that govern my profession, today I’m exploring the AMTA Standards of Clinical Practice. I’ve written previously on the Music Therapy Scope of Practice and the Code of Ethics.

Standards of PracticeThe Standards of Clinical Practice begins with a Preamble and an Introduction, followed by 11 Populations and footnotes. The Preamble defines music therapy with the standard AMTA definition and describes the relationship between the standards and the Code of Ethics. It states that the music therapist (MT) will use professional judgment in using these standards and an AMTA committee will revise these standards to keep them current with advances in the field. (More on that committee later.)

The Introduction explains that these standards are rules for measuring quality music therapy services. There are General Standards, that all music therapists must follow, plus specific standards for ten areas of music therapy service.

The first section are the General Standards. They outline the general procedure that music therapists follow when providing music therapy services, plus professional development:

  1. Referral and Acceptance, with 3 standards
  2. Assessment, with 8 standards
  3. Treatment planning, with 11 standards
  4. Implementation, with 7 standards
  5. Documentation, with 6 standards
  6. Termination of services, with 4 standards
  7. Continuing Education, with 3 standards
  8. Supervision, with 2 standards

The next 10 sections are an alphabetical listing of specific populations or areas of music therapy service. The music therapist working in these areas must follow all of the General Standards, plus the additional standards for that area.

Addictive Disorders has an additional Referral standard to include receiving a referral from members of a treatment team, and an Assessment standard with 19 additional areas to include. Three additional Implementation standards relate to how and when to include family members and disclosing information according to legal regulations. Documentation is the same as the General Standards. Termination includes one additional standard to document the client’s functional abilities. Continuing Education has 2 additional parts to the first standard (7.1.1 and 7.1.2) about maintaining knowledge of current research, theory and techniques for addictive disorders and related areas, like 12 step programs and family systems theory. The Supervision standards are the same.

The next section is Consultant. For Referral, the additional standards relate to establishing a written contract and an appropriate fee schedule. The rest of the Standards are the same as the General Standards.

For Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, there is a 9th standard specifying 7 areas for Assessment. All of the other standards are the same as the General Standards.

Standards for Educational Settings are next. There is one additional Assessment standards stating that the assessment should be individualized according to the student’s functioning level. There are no other additions to the General Standards.

The next section is for Older Adults. There’s a 9th Assessment standard specifying 10 areas to assess. The rest are the same as the General Standards.

The Medical Settings standards notes that some medical settings may require a physician’s order for a music therapy referral. A 9th Assessment standard specifies 14 additional assessment areas. Implementation has 2 additional standards about including family members in the treatment plan, following physician’s discretion and hospital regulations. Documentation adds that it will confirm the physician order and the discharge summary will follow the treatment team’s protocol. Continuing Education standards list some related areas, like medical terminology and grief, and also recommends counseling for the music therapist. The other standards are the same as the General Standards.

The Mental Health standards are the same as the General Standards, except for the stating that members of the treatment team can refer to music therapy, a 9th Assessment standard with 11 additional areas specified, spelling out some related areas for Continuing Education and recommending personal counseling.

For Physical Disabilities, there is an additional Referral standard related to well-being of the client. There are 15 areas specified by a 9th Assessment standard. Termination of Services must include a description of methods, procedures, and materials used, like adaptive devices and behavioral techniques.

Private Practice adds 3 Referral standards about acknowledging the referral source, components of a service contract, and an appropriate fee schedule. The 9th Assessment standards state that it will be congruent with the client’s level of functioning. Documentation will be of each session with the client and include the client’s payment for services. Continuing Education will include current developments in research, theory, and techniques related to the clients served in the practice. The rest are consistent with the General Standards.

Wellness includes all the General Standards, plus 2 additional Referral standards relating a service agreement and an appropriate fee schedule. A statement introduces the Assessment section about how assessment in wellness is process oriented and negotiated by the MT and the client.

The Footnotes define terminology used throughout the document.

The AMTA Standards of Clinical Practice Committee reviews this document each year. If revisions are needed, the committee members (2 co-chairs, one representative from each region, plus a student member) work on them and present them to the Assembly of Delegates. The Assembly often debates or asks questions about each revision and can sometimes become a lengthy discussion about semantics, but language is important, so it’s always an interesting discussion. Then they approve the revisions or send it back to committee for more work. When I served on the Assembly, the Standards committee was always very thoughtful with its work, and many times revisions were approved without comment.

I hope this helps you navigate the Standards of Clinical Practice.