How can music therapy’s impact be maximized in the home environment? What steps can a music therapist take to help music therapy clients and their caregivers generalize what they have learned in music therapy to their everyday life? In this AMTA-Pro podcast, experienced music therapy clinician Ronna Kaplan discusses time‐tested and “family‐approved” areas of concentration in music therapy sessions that then translate and transfer to home. The case examples covers three areas of focus that arise daily for individual music therapy clients and their families and caregivers, i.e., music therapy for learning, for living, and for the love of music.

Generalizing MT to Home Life

Ronna Kaplan, MA, MT-BC

AMTA-Pro Podcast October, 2016


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The Music Therapy Center at The Music Settlement in Cleveland, Ohio was established in 1966. The goals and purpose of music therapy for each individual client is in keeping with the mission of The MusicKaplan music therapy 2 Settlement, that is to “create a community where artistic expression belongs to everyone by serving those who seek personal growth through the arts.” Our music therapy clients learn music and grow in other areas during their music therapy sessions. At The Music Settlement, we are always looking for ways to systematically address generalization and to provide resources for families and individuals  to use in home.
In most cases, our music therapists strive to develop music experiences that do not require lots of music skills or sophisticated knowledge on part of family members, and that do not require expensive music instruments or other materials not commonly found in the home. At the same time, some of our music therapy clients have family members who are trained musician. In those cases, the music therapist can develop duets and other music experiences adapted to meet the skill level of the individual with special needs AND the skill level of the family member.

Outline of AMTA-Pro Podcast Discussion

Kaplan music therapy 1MUSIC THERAPY FOR LEARNING: Providing additional practice in domains of skill-based learning through engagement in prescriptively-developed home music experiences.

MUSIC THERAPY FOR LIVING: Incorporating music at home to assist with calming, transitions, daily routines, and/or relationship development with other family members

MUSIC THERAPY FOR THE LOVE OF MUSIC: Establishing a program incorporating instrument practice, music listening, and active music-making into a home-based routine

Examples of Music Experiences
• Why/Need/Goal
• Where/Setting/Environment
• Who
• When
• What
• How
• Intervention (Specific Use and Function of Music)
• Materials
• Other

Playlists for specific categories, e.g., energizing, relaxing, focusing attention, and building memories
childhood, teen years.

Important considerations when introducing music into the home environment, e.g., individual preferences, repetition, chronological age & developmental age, potential hypersensitivities, different levels of participations, etc.

Helping parents and caregivers overcome their hesitation to sing with children.

Tips and ideas for parents & caregivers to help their children enjoy making music at home and generalize what they have learned in music therapy.


Brownell, M. D. (2013). Social StoriesTM: Pairing the Story with Music, in Early childhood music therapy and autism spectrum disorders, Humpal, M. & Kern, P., eds. (2013). Philadelphia, PA: Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 117-129.

Dacus, D. N. & Harmon, C. Z. (2004). Teaching social skills through scripts and songs: A powerful approach to communication. Grapevine, Texas: Prelude Music Therapy.

Early childhood music therapy and autism spectrum disorders, Humpal, M. & Kern, P., eds. (2013). Philadelphia, PA: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Hanser, S. B. & Mandel, S. E. (2010). Manage your stress and pain through music. Boston, MA: Berklee Press.

Kaplan, R. S. & Steele, A. L. (2005). An Analysis of Music Therapy Program Goals and Outcomes for Clients with Diagnoses on the Autism Spectrum. Journal of Music Therapy ,42 (1), 2-19.

Walworth, D. (2013). Family-centered Practice: Integrating Music into Home Routines, in Early childhood music therapy and autism spectrum disorders, Humpal, M. & Kern, P., eds. (2013). Philadelphia, PA: Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 233-244.

Ronna Kaplan, MA, MT-BC

Ronna is Chair of the Center for Music Therapy since 2004 and a Music Therapist at The Music Settlement (TMS) since 1988, Ronna Kaplan has served clients ranging from premature infants to adults through 103 years-of-age with varied disabilities and levels of functioning. She was instrumental in developing the Center’s Outcomes-BasedKaplan music therapy 3 Measurement tool and program, supervised Center for Music Therapy interns, and served as TMS Interim Co-Executive Director and Acting Director of the Performing Arts Department/Music School for several months in 2007.

Ronna earned a Bachelor of Music in Music Therapy and Music Education from Michigan State University and a Master of Arts in Special Education from Kent State University. She holds a Certificate in Nonprofit Management from the Mandel Center for Nonprofit Organizations at Case Western Reserve University, as well as certificates in DIRR/FloortimeTM Basic Course and Orff Level I. She completed her Neurologic Music Therapy training from the Robert F. Unkefer Academy of Neurologic Music Therapy at Colorado State University’s Center for Biologic Medical Research in Music. Ronna conducted research on the effects of music on premature infants in Cleveland Clinic’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, as well as music therapy program goals and outcomes for clients with autism spectrum diagnoses at The Music Settlement and diversity in music therapy. Additionally, she taught classes in Music Therapy Practicum and Adapted Percussion classes at Baldwin-Wallace College for 14 years.

She has held significant positions in state, regional, and national music therapy organizations. A Past President of the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA), Ronna co-chaired the AMTA’s Autism Think Tank/Task Force from 2008-2009 and the AMTA Diversity Task Force from 2010-2015. She served as Chair of the AMTA Early Childhood Music Therapy network from its inception in 1994 until 2006. Ronna has published articles and book chapters, guest lectured at colleges and universities, and presented nationally and internationally. She was honored with the Association of Ohio Music Therapists Past Presidents’ Club Award in 2011, the AMTA Professional Practice Award in 2003, the Great Lakes Region of AMTA’s Service Award in 1997 and their Honorary Life Member Award in 2014.

Currently, Ronna serves as a member of AMTA’s Masters Level Entry subcommittee and the Editorial Board for one of their professional journals, Music Therapy Perspectives. She will be the Chair of the National Coalition of Creative Arts Therapies Associations (NCCATA) in October 2016. She also writes a music therapy column for the Huffington Post.