I am a music therapist with almost 24 years of professional experience. I have been working with a variety of populations for many years, but most of my music therapy life has been spent working with children and adolescents with developmental disabilities and concurrent psychiatric concerns. I have been a teacher, a clinical supervisor, and an internship director, so I think I have a pretty good idea about the types of textbooks that are important for music therapists to have at their fingertips. Here's my list of the textbooks that I think we all need to own...
- A Good Music Theory Book - A time ago, I asked interns what advice they would offer to music therapy students. Every single one said "DON'T SELL YOUR THEORY BOOK BACK!" They went on to say that their music theory book was the one thing that they regretted giving away. I agree. Having that theory book within arm's reach gives you a foundation when you are trying to figure out chord progressions or are composing music for specific uses. I'm not saying that you need to keep the exact textbook that you used as a music therapy student, but find a theory book that really helps you understand the basic bones of your medium.
- An Introduction to Music Therapy Book - These basic textbooks are excellent tools for advocacy and mentoring others about what music therapy is and can be. I've lent my copies of these texts to several people who were interested in learning more about music therapy. I've also used mine over and over again when making fact sheets and/or information packets for people who are interested in music therapy. I'm partial to An introduction to music therapy theory and practice by Davis, Gfeller, and Thaut, but The new music therapist's handbook by Susanne Hanser is also good for an overview of this complex profession.
- At Least One Advanced Clinical Theory Book - This text will vary based on the type of music therapy that you use during your treatment sessions. Mine include texts from Darrow, Cassity and Cassity, Thaut, and Goodman. (Let me know if you want a bibliography of my reference shelf - I'll share!)
- A Clinical How-To Text - My favorite "How-To" music therapy book is Music therapy: A fieldwork primer by Ronald M. Borczon. This text speaks to how-to run music therapy sessions and covers lots of situations that occur. I do not agree with every single statement that Mr. Borczon makes, but I feel that the text itself presents a great way to format my sessions and how I act within them. I also like Treatment planning for music therapy cases by Anita Gadberry, but I am a bit biased towards that text since I contributed to it! I found that the rest of the text (not just my contribution!!) was also good for helping me focus my session planning, treatment delivery, and evaluation techniques.
- Miscellaneous - When I started thinking about this post, I thought things like "Everyone needs a chord dictionary." Then I remembered that people don't carry chord dictionaries around with them anymore - they just use the internet. I figure it's the same with a music dictionary or music encyclopedia - no one really needs the actual books anymore - just get online. I still love having my book copies, but they aren't really practical when I am moving around the world trying to do therapy. The tablet is so much more convenient for looking up anything and everything.
- Treasures - I have a textbook that I treasure. It is a first edition copy of Music in Therapy edited by E. Thayer Gaston. The book was being thrown out at my facility shortly after I arrived. I saved it and still keep that text to refer to every so often. William Sears's chapter to that book is one of my textual foundations and provides me with many reasons why I do what I do within this world of music therapy. Keep something on your shelf that reminds you why you go through this process of being a music therapist day after day, month after month, and year after year. It will be different for us all, but that is why music therapy is such a wonderfully diverse profession. Find your treasure.
Thanks for reading!