A Survey on Music Therapy and Speech-Language Pathologist Collaboration: Excerpts

20 January 2014

Monday, Jan 20, 2014

Written by Carly Flaagan

Carly Flaagan is a senior studying music therapy at the University of North Dakota. While finishing her last two semesters at UND, Carly will be instructing a course on music therapy for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute and leading a recreational music and learning class for toddlers at the East Grand Forks Campbell Library. Carly is from East Grand Forks, MN. Carly has been generous enough to share with us excerpts from,”A Survey on Music Therapy and Speech-Language Pathologist Collaboration“, a research paper that landed her the E. Thayer Gaston Research Writing Award, given by the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA). Thank you, Carly, for your contribution and we wish you all the best in your very promising future!



Speech delay is the most common developmental concern that is voiced by parents of children between the ages of one and three years of age. There is a growing need for effective treatment for individuals affected by speech or language delay. Collaboration between music therapists (MTs) and speech-language pathologists (SLPs) has shown positive results for populations with speech and/or language delay. However, there is little in the literature about this collaboration. The purpose of the survey was to gather information that would help better understand the attitudes that music therapists and speech-language pathologists have in regards to collaboration. Results indicated that MTs and SLPs were knowledgeable about the other’s profession, and believed to some extent that collaboration could be effective. Of the MTs and SLPs surveyed that had already collaborated with the other profession, all indicated it had been effective collaboration. The implications of these results are discussed, and areas for continuing research into the collaboration between MTs and SLPs are identified.

Music therapy and speech-language pathology collaboration

It is important to address the issue of whether or not a SLP and a MT can work together efficiently. McCarthy et al. (2008) noted that both the SLP and the MT receive positive results from working with each other. The authors stated “The working relationship is mutually beneficial. MTs are trained to recognize communication goals already created by an SLP that would be appropriate for music therapy interventions and would lend themselves to adding musical elements to support” (McCarthy, Geist, Zojwala, Schock, 2008, pg. 406). They emphasized the importance of shared learning between the SLP and the MT. Survey results led to reports of increased knowledge and experience for both the MT and SLP as well as the added benefits of enhancing goals, client progress, professional support, and ingenuity. Specifically, goals were enhanced by “collaboration in setting goals and designing effective co-treatment strategies to address goals” (McCarthy, Geist, Zojwala, Schock, 2008). Geist and colleagues (2008), found that a co-treatment model that they had created for a young child who was receiving treatment from the collaboration of SLP and MT resulted in short-term positive results, specifically: “Results indicated increased engagement in the classroom after integrating music therapy and speech-language therapy treatment strategies” (Geist, McCarthy, Rodgers-Smith, and Porter, 2008).

Music Therapy can address many of the same goals that the SLPs address using music as a tool to enhance and develop language skills. Johanson wrote that “The use of music within speech and language therapy has been growing within the field of speech-language pathology. The use of music in speech and language therapy has been applied with many populations ranging from infants to adults” (Johanson, 2011). The research that has currently been done on the co-treatment of music therapy and speech-language pathology points towards a positive correlation between co-treatment and client success. However, there is little empirical data to support this idea. It seems to be critical to delve deeper into the idea of co-treatment between these two professional areas to see if continued positive results are evident.


The purpose of this survey was to better understand the attitudes that music therapists and speech-language pathologists have in regards to collaboration. There is not a large amount of current research on SLP and MT collaboration, but what is published shows positive results. The survey was meant to highlight three important viewpoints that would lead towards good collaboration: understanding of the other career, being open to collaboration with the other career, and belief that collaboration could lead to positive effects. The results indicated 100% agreement that health care should be interdisciplinary, and the MTs understood speech-language pathology, believed it was effective and research based and that they (the MTs) would be comfortable in collaboration with SLPs. Both of the MTs that had taken the survey had already collaborated effectively with a SLP before. Although, one of the MTs selected ‘somewhat agree’ when asked if they agreed that they were comfortable with their individual role in the therapeutic process. Perhaps, in order to encourage collaboration, individual roles should be determined, and lines should be drawn so each profession knows exactly what their role in the process is.

Of the SLPs, two had not collaborated with a MT before and the SLP’s viewpoints regarding if MT was effective, and research based were split three ways. One third of the SLPs only somewhat agreed that MT was research-based, effective therapy. This may be because not all of the SLPs have seen an MT lead interventions in a session, since the SLPs that had collaborated with a MT before stated it had been effective.  However, that is just speculation. Two SLPs also selected ‘somewhat agree’ for their agreement with the statement “I believe that MT-BC/SLP collaboration could be beneficial”. This again, could be because the two that selected somewhat agree were the two that had not worked with a MT before. If it is truly because of this hypothesis, it is worrying that two SLPs also selected ‘somewhat agree’ for their agreement on “I would be willing to work with a MT in the future”. Overall, the answers of the respondents lend themselves towards the optimistic viewpoint that SLP/MT-BC collaboration is effective, and had potential to increase.

Written by Carly Flaagan


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