Changing directions a little bit here, how are academic programs for music therapy different around the globe?

Well, all in all, it is not so different.  Formal training in music therapy began in the United States about 60 years ago, and many who have received formal training have been trained here in the United States.  When people went back to their home countries, they took what they learned back with them, and therefore the approaches are fairly similar.  Even much of the same vocabulary is used.  One of the main differences is the repertoire used.  There are also differences in theoretical frameworks.  For example, in my home country of Germany, it is very much a psychoanalytic and psychotherapeutic approach.  Of course, Freud, Jung, and Adler were our neighbors, so the country’s tradition influences the theoretical framework used in therapy.  Often, we assume that more ancient cultures will use more traditional music in therapy, with lots of drumming as such.  But we also have to remember that many of them grew up with The Beatles and other popular music we grew up with here.

Are there any differences in populations served?  Or are music therapists around the world serving pretty much the same populations with the same needs?

For the most part, they are pretty much the same.  But we do see populations pop up.  Lately, there has been a lot of crisis intervention, such as with the earthquakes in China.  If there are needs, colleagues are trying to find new ways to serve the clients.  In China, music therapists developed an approach to meet those needs, which are different than needs that we experience here in the United States.  It’s all about the needs, but it is also regulated by the government.  That can determine whether music therapists are working more in schools or in medical settings.

With an international organization, I imagine communication can be quite difficult.  How important is global communication to the field of music therapy, and how can we promote it?

It’s very important that we develop global communication for many reasons.  We are living in a global world.  People are living in different countries, and people are serving people from different cultures and countries.  We have to find ways to promote global communication.  The social networks, like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, help a lot.  I think it’s also important to have students participating in exchange programs, and also to support international publications.  We know about a lot of the publications written in English, but there are many other publications, especially by our Latin American colleagues, that are written in Spanish.  So we don’t know anything about them, simply because we don’t have access to them.  Translating these would help us know what is going on at an international level.  The world congresses have been successful in promoting global communication, and this something we need to continue.

How would a student go about looking into an exchange program?

Well, there are currently some pathways open.  Many universities have relations with colleges and universities abroad, and if they have a music therapy program, it is usually possible to do an exchange.  It is currently easier for an international student to come to the United States, because classes and degrees earned here are usually transferrable.  An American student might be able to go to another country, but degrees and credits are not likely to transfer.  It may seem like a financial loss, but traveling and living in another country is highly educational.  The experiences may even be more valuable than the courses you take at the university.  There is interest in opening more pathways for exchange students, and we continue to work toward this.  It’s not an easy task, but we need to make it so that one can earn credits while studying abroad.

I often get emails saying, “I am traveling through Europe, can you put me in contact with some music therapists?”  In this way, I can put people in contact so they can meet up and spend some days, or do some observations, or have a jam session or something.  It doesn’t necessarily benefit your coursework, but you broaden your horizons.