The purpose of this dissertation was to investigate the feasibility of a unifying philosophy for music therapy and to offer an identity for the music therapy profession that is appropriate for the various ways in which music therapy is practiced throughout the world. A systematic review of published music therapy approaches informed this investigation. The central research questions for this dissertation were: (a) Is it possible to articulate a unifying philosophy of music therapy that is inclusive of the diverse ways music therapy is currently practiced; and if so, (b) What might be that resultant integrated philosophy of music therapy? If an integrated or unified philosophy of music therapy and identity for the profession is possible to define, it may have implications for music therapy education at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Using the unique interdisciplinary perspective of the Doctor of Liberal Studies (DLS) program at SMU, each major published approach, theory, and model of music therapy was analyzed to compare similarities and differences between them. Current research was examined to determine whether current music therapy practice supports the conclusions from the analysis. Each approach, theory, and model was analyzed to identify the complexity making it unique from other approaches, or the repetition making it similar to other approaches. Finally, an evaluation of whether a unifying philosophy of music therapy is possible, along with the implications for the profession regarding whether one is possible, was completed.

Degree Date

Spring 5-14-2022

Document Type


Degree Name



Graduate Liberal Studies and Dispute Resolution


Julie Scott

Second Advisor

Robert Krout

Third Advisor

Lauren DiMaio

Subject Area

Music, Philosophy, Neuroscience, Humanities


Music Therapy

Number of Pages




Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License