Parental Perceptions, Experiences, and Desires of Music Therapy


Although music therapy has been established as a profession for over 60 years, there is "a lack of recognition and understanding of what music therapy is and its benefits [...] many people still have not heard of the profession." Even people who have heard about music therapy hold widespread misconceptions about music therapy including: the client must be musically inclined, music therapists are not real therapists and cannot handle "serious issues," and more. In actuality, music therapy can benefit a wide spectrum of people ranging from premature infants, children with autism, adults with traumatic injuries, to older adults with Parkinson's disease.

Music therapy is especially effective for children since they naturally enjoy and respond to music; this innate and universal musicality has been termed as "The Music Child" by Nordoff and Robins, and has been used to explore "receptive, cognitive, expressive, and communicative capabilities" of children with developmental delays. Many parents avidly testify about the results they have seen, and research studies show the effectiveness of music therapy for children. This discrepancy between the potential benefits of music therapy and the lack of public awareness motivated us to explore the landscape of music therapy and development of ways to overcome the challenges that lead to the underuse of music therapy.

A child playing the xylophone. Photo by Jelleke Vanooteghem

Research Questions

RQ 1: Why do parents choose music therapy for their children?
RQ 2 Why do parents discontinue music therapy?
RQ 3: What benefits do parents expect from music therapy sessions?
RQ 4: What benefits did parents see through music therapy sessions?
RQ 5: What changes do parents want to see in the field of music therapy?


Contrary to the public perception that music therapy only addresses emotional needs, 47 out of 59 parents reported seeing improvements in other areas including behavioral, cognitive, linguistic, and social changes. All but one parent indicated that they would recommend music therapy to others. The survey results further revealed that even parents of children participating in music therapy had misconceptions regarding music therapy, which we describe in our paper. Parents reported inaccessibility and cost as other major limitations surrounding music therapy adoption. We further discuss in our paper how technology solutions could mitigate issues with definition, distance, and cost, while maintaining the benefits of music therapy.


Ha-Kyung Kong and Karrie Karahalios. Parental Perceptions, Experiences, and Desires of Music Therapy, AMIA 2016. pdf


Ha-Kyung Hidy Kong