Neurologic Approach or Humanistic Approach: Are they really that different?

I consider myself an eclectic music therapist.  Depending on the client and their goals/objectives, I might use a variety of approaches during a session.  Knowing that music can be a real motivator for change, I might use the behavioral approach for working on socialization or communication goals.  However, if a client’s speech is the main focus, I might resort to using a variety of Neurologic Music Therapy techniques depending on the source of the problem or what the exact goal/objective may be.  However, I feel very strongly that the clients themselves, if possible, needs to direct their own therapy and I am there to facilitate that process which is considered humanistic. With all of that being said, when I found this research article stating that some commonalities, yet differences exist between the Neurologic and Humanistic approaches, I was fascinated.

Authors Moore and LaGasse wanted “to explore such similarities and differences and examine how ideas inherent in humanistic-leaning music therapy practice may inform and strengthen neuroscience-informed music therapy practice” (p. 144).  The title of neuroscience is understood by many to involve the study of the brain. For Neurologic Music Therapy, the focus has been to research and prove how music interacts and effects the brain’s functions and has shown time and again that music is a viable therapy for neuroplasticity, which is where the brain “messages” can be rerouted if damage has occurred.

Therefore, since the humanistic approach is primarily centering on the client’s ability to direct and create a healing process for themselves.  This article highlights various texts and writings, which show humanistic statements within neuroscience research, and therefore validating common threads within the two approaches.  

They finish with a section on the part music plays within the process of therapy, because for the music therapist, music is the key.  Moore and LaGasse state that the neurologic approach is “based on an understanding of the neurological impact of music…” (p. 150). The difference then lies in that the humanistic approach “is grounded more in the innate human quality to seek meaning through beauty and balance” (p. 150).  Moore and LaGasse finalize their article by identifying ways the Neurologic Music Therapist can enhance their treatment with humanistic concepts which are really common to both practices.

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

Moore K. S., & LaGasse, A. B (2018).  Parallels and divergence between Neuroscience and humanism: Considerations for the music therapist.  Music Therapy Perspectives, 36(2), 2018, 144 – 151. doi 10.1093/mtp/miy011