The Therapeutic Relationship as Predictor of Change in Music Therapy with Young Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

In a study of children with ASD, researchers from The Grieg Academy Music Therapy Research Centre in Norway found that quality of the therapeutic relationship between music therapists and children they work with was associated with social skill development. As social skills are a primary area of need for children with ASD, Mössler et al. (2019) chose to explore how specific interaction with a music therapist could impact goal progress. In a randomized controlled trial of 48 children aged four to seven years, without prior music therapy experience, researchers analyzed levels of each child’s non-verbal engagement with the music therapist and each music therapist’s attunement to the child. Study results indicated that higher-quality relationships, defined as the therapist accurately matching a child’s current emotional/behavioral state and engagement level, were correlated with increases in communication and language skills.


Mössler, K., Gold, C., Aßmus, J., Schumacher, K., Calvet, C., Reimer, S., Iversen, G., & Schmid, W. (2017). The therapeutic relationship as predictor of change in music therapy with young children with autism spectrum disorder. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 49(7), 2795-2809.