Making Goals “Music-Centered” – How Does That Work?

With each client that I work with, goals and objectives are established based on my assessment when I first start working with them.  This is probably true for many disciplines, not just specific to music therapy. However, in order to be recognized by a larger audience of therapists and health professions, music therapy should work towards a validated evaluation tool that gives readable results of our treatment.

Dr. Carpente, author of a study on how “goal attainment scaling (GAS) provides an established practice-based method for quantitatively evaluating individualized treatment goals” (p. 215), provides some background for why this would be especially helpful for therapists working with children on the autism spectrum disorder (ASD) who are focused on music –centered treatment.  GAS has been around since 1968 and was used originally for those suffering from mental illness. According to Carpente, the challenge, however, is “not determined by the behavioral aspects alone, but with the degree of affective engagement and relational intent being expressed” (p. 216) in music-centered goal planning.

Therapists, including myself, often strive to work on communication skills and social interaction when working with a child with ASD.  Carpente explains that to use the GAS method for measurement, it includes a five-step process and detailed statistical analysis, which allows for a numerical score to show progress.  He states “GAS can provide a quantitative measure for music-centered outcomes” (p. 221).

The best part of this article for a practicing music therapist or family member seeking to understand how this makes a difference is the case study example, which starts on page 220.  His example of “Joseph,” who received music therapy from Carpente gives a clear picture of how this method of goal setting and measurement can be applied over time in music therapy sessions where relationship and communication were the primary focus.  While “Joseph” didn’t make progress in all areas targeted, he did advance in “musical attention, adaptation of musical play,” and musical engagement” (p. 221).

For more information on music therapy, visit our website at or the American Music Therapy Association’s website at

Stephanie H. Morris, MM, MT-BC

Neurologic Music Therapy Fellow

Central Ohio Music Therapy, LLC

Carpente, John A.(2018).  Goal Attainment Scaling: A method for evaluating progress toward developmentally based music-centered treatment goals for children with autism spectrum disorder.  Music Therapy Perspectives, 36(2), 2018. 215 – 223; doi 10.1093/mpt/mix021