Tag Archives: Music Therapy

Ethics Module for the Music Therapy Graduate Curriculum

by Louise Steele

Proposal to Incorporate an Ethics Module in the Music Therapy Graduate Curriculum

Module: Ethical Considerations in the Decision Making Process

Course: MUS 585, Seminar in Music Therapy: Issues and Practices

Taught: Spring Quarter

3 hours: Tuesday and Thursdays

Course Description: The purpose of the course is to introduce the student to current issues and practices in the field of music therapy particularly those which relate to clinical practice, research, and teaching. Management techniques, cost analysis , funding, proposal writing and ethical considerations in the decision making process will be covered, as well as other topics pertinent to the advanced practice of music therapy and a global view of the field.

Outcomes Related to the Ethics Module:

  1. Student will be able to recognize ethical issues within a given case scenario and factors influencing the decision making process in arriving at a solution.
  2. Students will study the results of a research survey undertaken to determine the ethical issues most frequently encountered and those of greatest concern to practicing music therapists in the Great Lakes region.
  3. Students will be able to identify the most frequently addressed ethical issues of music therapists in the Great Lakes region and ethical issues which of primary concern to fractionize in this area.

Ethics Module:

Time line: 4 Classes of 1.5 hours each.

Sequence: First two week or first four classes of the quarter.


Day 1: Intellectual Exploration

a. An open ended questionnaire will be given to assess the students’ awareness of ethical issues faced by professional music therapists. (Questionnaire will also be used as a posttest at the end of the module.)

b. Students will view several video clips of two music therapist’s role playing a discussion related to situations encountered in their work (actual experiences) which challenge the individuals to make decision guided by some ethical orientation.

1. A service agency sub-contacts the service one of the music therapists to a hospital which has received foundation support for a multi site research project. The hospital has not received IRB approval prior to accepting the grant and is unable to engage in any research for nearly a full year. The service agency which holds a contact with the hospital expects to be paid for the committed time of its therapist. In fact no work is done for a year.

2. The music therapist works for an agency which contacts service to other agencies in the community. The contracting agency designed the program and provides supervision for the music therapist placed in the facility, a local hospital psychiatric unit. During the year the therapist is approached by the hospital and enters into a plan with the hospital to end the contract with the contracting agency the music therapist works for and to hire the therapist themselves.

3. While working for Agency No. 1, the music therapist engages a second music therapist in writing a ‘best practice’ manual as part of a foundation grant.

The manual was begun but never completed even though the therapist attempted on numerous occasions to engage the second therapists to do so. The therapist then left the position and accepted a position in another agency. An effort to complete the manual was initiated again by the therapist and positively responded to by Agency No. 1 however the agency denied access to printed material which had been added to by the second therapist. The therapist was asked to write sections but without seeing the material which had been collaboratively written previously.

c. Students will be asked to identify specific issues introduced in the video which may require a decision based on some ethical orientation.

d. Students will be lead into a discussion of what they believe ‘ethics’ to be; how “ethical” decisions are made ; what factors influence our decisions; and whether or not the topic of ethics is relevant to their chosen profession. The influence of value systems (rightness, fairness, and et.), benevolence, justice, and autonomy will be introduced.

e. Follow-up video clips are presented in which the actors discuss several possible courses of action which they might follow in resolving the issues presented in the first video.

f. The students are asked to examine each solution and project what the consequences of the decisions made may be to the clients, the music therapists, the agencies involved and any interested parties mentioned or not mentioned in the video.

Assignments: Students are asked to meet after class to discuss the video examples and to prepare in writing areas of concern for the teleconference of Day II.

Day II: Structured Guidance

. Teleconference: Professor in music therapy who speaks on the issue of ethics and music therapy. The teleconference will be interactive challenging the students to think about ethical issues in the field of music therapy and to question each other and the professor in this process.

Assignment: Students are instructed to study the Professional Code of Ethics and to bring a copy to class…

Day III: Structured Guidance continued

Research: The professor will present a survey, completed in the Winter Quarter, of practicing music therapists in the Great Lakes Regional Association for Music Therapy. The survey will ask music therapists holding bachelors, masters, and doctorate degrees, with different year’s experience, to identify the most significant ethical issue related to their practice in the past year and the top two ethical questions about which they have most concern. This survey will be the first conducted asking questions about ethical challenges in the field of music therapy practice. The finding of the survey will be discussed by the class.

b. Professional Code of Ethics Review: In small groups students will study the top issues faced by music therapist in the region and the issues judged to be of greatest concern to them as determined by an analysis of the survey. They will then determine how the professions’ code of ethics does/does not assist the music therapist in arriving at a resolution to each issue.

Assignment: Students are instructed to complete the IRB module on line.

Day IV: Application

a. The students will have taken the IRB module on line.

b. Mock IRB Review: The students will be given an original proposal submitted by the instructor to the IRB. They will be asked to study it as a group and to identify concerns in light of the IRB regulations. Issues of confidentiality, risk, benefits, public good, subject protection, data protection, ET will be discussed.


1. Students will be able to identify issues within the field of music therapy which require a decision based on ethical considerations.

2. Students will be able to identify the consequences of different courses of action as a result of adopting different methods to support their decision making processes. They will also be able to state how the results of decisions impact all parties concerned, implied or not, including the music therapist.

4. Students will be able to state the major parts of the Music Therapy Code of Ethics and give an application of each of the major sections.

5. Students will be able to identify the ethical issues most frequently facing professionals in the region as well as the two issues which are of the greatest ethical concerns of these same therapists.

Day 5: Students will be asked to reflect upon the module and to share their opinion of its impact upon them and how ethical issues may be faced by students as well as professionals. Students will be given the post module questionnaire to determine the information they believe they have gained about ethical decision making. The results will be used to modify future learning modules.