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

  • Karin MösslerEmail author
  • Christian Gold
  • Jörg Aßmus
  • Karin Schumacher
  • Claudine Calvet
  • Silke Reimer
  • Gun Iversen
  • Wolfgang Schmid
Original Paper


This study examined whether the therapeutic relationship in music therapy with children with Autism Spectrum Disorder predicts generalized changes in social skills. Participants (4–7 years, N = 48) were assessed at baseline, 5 and 12 months. The therapeutic relationship, as observed from session videos, and the generalized change in social skills, as judged by independent blinded assessors and parents, were evaluated using standardized tools (Assessment of the Quality of Relationship; ADOS; SRS). Linear mixed effect models showed significant interaction effects between the therapeutic relationship and several outcomes at 5 and 12 months. We found the music therapeutic relationship to be an important predictor of the development of social skills, as well as communication and language specifically.


Infant research Attunement Affect Early childhood Improvisational music therapy Outcome predictor 



We would like to thank Łucja Bieleninik, Monika Geretsegger, Maj-Britt Posserud, Laura Fusar Poli, Grace Thompson, John Carpente, Tali Gottfried, Laura Blauth, Alexandra Georgaki, Cochavit Elefant, and Claire Ghetti for valuable feedback on earlier versions of this article.


This study was supported by funding from the Research Council of Norway (Grant Nos. 213844 and 240433/F10), and the Health Authority of Western Norway (Helse Vest grant no. 911800).

Author Contributions

KM, WS, CG, JA conceived the study and developed the study design. KS, SR, CC participated in the study design and performed measurement. GI participated in the coordination of the study. JA performed the statistical analysis. KM, WS, CG, JA drafted the manuscript, while KM led the writing of the report. All authors contributed to data interpretation, read and approved the final manuscript.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

JA, CC, GI have no conflicts of interest to disclose. KM, CG, KS, SR, WS are clinically trained music therapists.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all parents on behalf of their children included in the study.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (PNG 124 KB)
10803_2017_3306_MOESM2_ESM.docx (13 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (DOCX 13 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.GAMUT–The Grieg Academy Music Therapy Research Centre, Uni Research HealthUni ResearchBergenNorway
  2. 2.Centre for Clinical ResearchHaukeland University HospitalBergenNorway
  3. 3.Berlin University of the ArtsBerlinGermany
  4. 4.CaritasSt. Elisabeth-Haus LichtenradeBerlinGermany
  5. 5.Department of Child and Adolescent PsychiatryHaukeland University HospitalBergenNorway
  6. 6.GAMUT–The Grieg Academy Music Therapy Research Centre, Department of MusicUniversity of BergenBergenNorway

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