Music Therapists’ Song Selection for Song Discussion with Adolescents with Behavioral Health Needs: A Proposed Checklist

Date of Award


Degree Name

M.A. in Music Therapy


Department of Music Therapy


Susan C. Gardstrom


This study sought to identify dimensions of a song that might suggest its clinical relevance to the music therapy method-variation of song discussion as employed with adolescents with behavioral health needs. Additionally, I aimed to explore how those dimensions of a song interact with an individual and their unique clinical profile and thus may contribute to indications and contraindications for the use of this method-variation in treatment. Because much of the published literature on song discussion points to its efficacy, it seemed fitting that the next step would be to detail the various salient aspects of a song that a music therapist must give attention to when evaluating its relevance for a discussion experience. I carefully reviewed the music therapy literature on song discussion, reflected on my own process of choosing songs for discussion in my clinical practice with children and adolescents, and I consulted other music therapy professionals on their process of choosing song material for song discussion and incorporated this information into my considerations. In this report, I outline the 30 relevant dimensions I have identified as crucial to consider when examining a song’s potential for use in song discussion. The list of dimensions related to the lyric, musical, and nonmusical aspects of song selection for song discussion is intended to provide a general roadmap for music therapists and is not necessarily the ultimate or only resource that therapists may consult.


music therapy, adolescents, song selection, song discussion, lyric analysis, song analysis, behavioral health, mental health, checklist, lyric discussion, song lyric analysis, song lyric discussion, song (lyric) discussion, teens, children

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