History and background . . .

Spain is a culturally rich country where different cultures coexist. This is reflected in the musical heritage characterized by its variety of rhythms and contrasts.

How did music therapy develop? Where is this field currently positioned in the academic and professional field? What is the professional and working status of the music therapy professionals? What are its perspectives and challenges for the future?

The increase in interest about the Music Therapy field in Spain started almost 40 years ago. Those years were characterized by the efforts to incorporate Music Therapy into the academic and professional fields. Although the development and the presence of music therapy in the educational and medical field has advanced considerably, Spain still faces the future with challenges such as the official recognition of the field by the competent authorities.

Some Historical Notes The first references about the scientific use of Music Therapy in Spain date from the XVIIIth century (Poch, 1970). In 1744 A. J. Rodríguez established the bases of a scientific theory of Music Therapy in his work “ Medical Critical Arena” ( Palestra Crítico Médica ). It is also necessary to quote the doctors F. J. Cid (1787) who studied 12 cases of tarantism and the curative properties of music and B. Piñera y Siles (1787) who treated and cured a case of tarantism with music at the San Carlos Hospital in Madrid. Also, in the XIXth century, F. Vidal y Careta published his doctoral dissertation in pharmacology on the relationship between music and medicine (University of Barcelona, 1882).

In 1920, Dr. Candela Ardid published the book “ The music as a curative medium of the Nervous Diseases: Some considerations about Music Therapy ”, in which he explains the therapeutic effects of the music used in their treatments. This book meant a landmark in the history of Music Therapy in Spain, and showed an interest in the discipline from the conviction of its utility.

Progressively this conviction was extended reaching its peak in the 60s with the research and doctoral dissertations of professionals such as Serafina Poch, with her dissertation “ The influence of music on the child ” (music therapy) (University of Barcelona, 1964) and “ Music Therapy for autistic children. History of Spanish Music Therapy” (Universidad Complutense, 1972). These research studies created the foundation of a scientific profession and the spreading of Music Therapy in Spain. At this point, the effort to disseminate Music Therapy as a therapeutic discipline in the education and research centers also started. Thus, from 1970 to 1975, S. Poch was in charge of a research project in Music Therapy which was conducted at the Spanish Institute of Musicology, from the Higher Council of Scientific Research, in Barcelona.

In the 70s, in Spain, there were a great amount of educators, teachers, musicians, psychologists, etc. who included Music Therapy in their professional practice: Dr. S. Poch, Mª Natividad García Martín de Vidales, Paloma Camacho, M. Angel Acebedo, etc. At the same time, and at an international level, various events took place which represented the blooming of Music Therapy. Dr. S. Poch, represented Spain at the First and the Second World Congress of Music Therapy (Paris, 1974; Buenos Aires, 1976).

In 1979 the Ist National Symposium of Music Therapy was celebrated, which gave an official character to the Asociación Española de Musicoterapia (AEMT). The aim of AEMT, which was created by Dr. S. Poch and Prof.. J. Obiols Vié, was to promote the use of Music Therapy in the treatment of patients, as well as to promote music therapy practice and research in the educational field. Also in 1979, the AEMT and the Chair of Psychiatry of the Universidad Complutense (Madrid) organized the IInd National Symposium of Music Therapy. Also, the Spanish section of the International Society for Music Education (ISME- Spain) created a study group for Music Therapy that would lead to the organization of further courses and activities.

In the 80s, the effort to promote and disseminate the use of Music Therapy in Spain continues with the creation of associations, training courses and symposiums. In 1982 a Symposium in Music Therapy was held in Barcelona, organized by Dr. S. Poch within the Catalan-Croatian Conferences of Social Psychiatry. In 1983 the Associació Catalana de Musicoterapia (ACMT) – an initiative of Dr. S. Poch, in Barcelona – and the Centro de Investigación de Musicoterapia – created by Aittor Loroño and Patxi del Campo – were founded. Their function was to disseminate information related to the applications of Music Therapy. Two years later another Symposium of Music Therapy was held in Barcelona, coordinated by Dr. S. Poch, this time within the Vth Mediterranean Congress of Social Psychiatry. In addition, in 1985, other events took place: Meeting of Bio-music (organized by the Centro de Investigación en Musicoterapia) in Ezkoriatza (Guipuzcoa), the 1st National Congress of Music Therapy in Barcelona and the Meeting of Music Therapy in Valencia. In 1986 another Symposium of Music Therapy was organized by Dr. S. Poch. Dr. J. MacIntyre, former director of the “American Psychiatric Association” became the chair. This Symposium was held within the “Xth World Congress of Psychiatry” organized by Prof. J. J. López-Ibor in Madrid. Suzanne E. Hanser, PHD, MT-BC, participated in it, too. In 1986 Patxi del Campo created the Escuela de Musicoterapia y Técnicas Grupales (the present Instituto Música, Arte y Proceso) in Vitoria-Gasteiz, which was the first Music Therapy training course in Spain, aimed to support the activities developed at the Centro de Investigación en Musicoterapia from 1983 to 1986. In 1987 the 1 st Music Therapy Summer School took place in Vitoria-Gasteiz. It was organized by the Escuela de Musicoterapia y Técnicas Grupales with the support of the I.C.E. of the University of the Basque Country. This summer school has being offered yearly celebrating the 28 th edition in 2014. In 1989, the 1 st European Music Therapy Seminary was also celebrated in Vitoria. Also in 1987, Aittor Loroño founded the Centro de Investigación Musicoterapéutica in Bilbao, and Prof. F. Blasco founded in Valencia one branch of the Escuela de Musicoterapia y Técnicas Grupales.

In 1991 the Asociación Valenciana de Musicoterapia was created thanks to the initiative of Prof. F. Blasco. In the early 90s, there is a proliferation of Music therapy seminars, workshops, and courses at the academic level, Established programs at universities in related areas (teacher education, nursing, …) started incorporating some courses in music therapy. These initial seminars resulted, in some cases, in the creation of specific Music Therapy training programs within the university system and in private institutes. At the same time, different Music Therapy associations were constituted around the country with the aim to join efforts and share experiences among the professionals In 1990, Mr. Patxi Del Campo was elected as the coordinator of the VIIth World Congress of Music Therapy (Ist Congress of the World Federation of Music Therapy). In 1991 an International Music Therapy Meeting was organized by Mr. Daniel Terán. The same year, the European Music Therapy Committee was organized in Vitoria-Gasteiz within the 3 rd European Seminar of Music Therapy, organized by Instituto Música, Arte y Proceso. The founders were Helen Odell, Gianluigi di Franco, Tony Wigram and Patxi Del Campo. In 1992, the first University Conferences in Music Therapy were celebrated. It took place in Barcelona and was organized by Universidad Ramon Llull and Instituto Música, Arte y Proces, coordinated by Patxi Del Campo. The 2 nd edition of these Conferences was held in Salamanca in 1995. This time it was organized by the Universidad de Salamanca and Instituto Música, Arte y Proceso. The same year (1992) a postgraduate course in Music Therapy was created by Dr. S. Poch, at the Universitat de Barcelona. The objective of this course was to train music therapists as professionals that could work in the fields of rehabilitation, palliative care, special needs, mental health, etc. More courses followed this one: Universitat de Ramon Llull, Universidad de Valladolid, Les Heures and Universitat de Barcelona.

In 1993 Vitoria-Gasteiz hosted the VIIth World Congress of Music Therapy. This congress resulted in an important increase in the number of professionals interested in applying music therapy in their professional activity. It is important to mention that just before the Congress, in 1992, a group of professionals created the Coordinadora Nacional de Musicoterapia, which after a period of little activity was reactivated in 1998. The Coordinadora tried to constitute a Spanish Federation of Music Therapy. The statutes were approved in September 2000. However, due to internal disagreements, it never arrived to a happy end.

The scientific development of Music Therapy was supported by the Health Research Fund with the grant that was given to Dr. Manchola and Patxi Del Campo for the research of the use of Vibroacoustics with patients with Parkinson’s disease (1994). In 2001, the Ist International Congress of Music Therapy and Creative Therapies in Neurodegenerative Diseases was held in Vitoria-Gasteiz. This congress was coordinated by Patxi Del Campo and organized by the Fundación la Caixa and the Instituto Música, Arte y Proceso.

Theoretical Foundations . . .

Music therapy is a systematic process of intervention wherein a music therapist establishes a helping relationship with the person(s) s/he works with through the use of music and / or its musical elements (sound, rhythm, melody, harmony) in a suitable frame, in order to promote and / or restore people’s health and improve their quality of life, meeting their physical, emotional, mental, social and cognitive needs, and fostering significant changes in them “(AEMP, 2014).

Furthermore, we understand that the music therapist “is a professional with a solid knowledge and identity both in music and in therapy integrating all his/her competencies from the discipline of music therapy. The objective is to establish a socio-emotional helping relationship through musical activities in a suitable frame, in order to promote and / or restore the health of people with whom s/he works, significant changes in them” (Mateos, 2011).

Recognition and approval . . .

All the associations mentioned so far are registered in the Ministry for Home Affairs. Nowadays in Spain, there are 56 music therapy associations, 10 of which are members of the EMTC (

Due to the fact that in Spain the profession of music therapy is not recognized with an official title and as an independent profession by the Ministry of Labor, the music therapists have difficulties to integrate professionally. In addition, as the boundaries of their competence are not defined, some people work as a music therapist without being properly trained.

To help in the attempt to officially “register” the profession of music therapist, in 2007 the Asociación Española de Musicoterapeutas Profesionales (AEMP) was created. It is a trade union association, with no membership fee, registered in the Ministry of Labor and Social Security. The main objectives of this association are the regulation of the academic, professional, ethical and research aspects of music therapy in Spain.

Nowadays, there are few music therapists in Spain who work in public organizations or being part of research projects. Most of them work in private institutions, especially in special education, geriatrics, neurological rehabilitation, medicine and psychiatry. Music therapy in Spain is influenced by international methods and practices. Therefore, a variety of music therapy models and techniques are adopted by Spanish music therapists, which are adapted to the diverse cultural realities.

However, the present situation of Music Therapy in Spain makes the professional music therapists face some important challenges for the future: The Music therapy postgraduate/master training courses offered in universities are not official degrees (except for one) recognized by the Ministry of Education. However, several of them follow the guidelines of the Bologna treaty and the European Space of Higher Education.

The lack of a specific description of the scope of practice of the professional music therapist facilitates the intrusion of people in the job market who have not had proper training in music therapy, but call themselves music therapists and are hired as such. With the aim to achieve the support and recognition of the music therapy profession in Spain, several efforts are made:

  • To encourage research in Music Therapy in the educational and health areas. An increase in doctoral dissertations in this area is documented.
  • To emphasize the importance of working and uniting together as a professional group. For the music therapy professionals to present themselves as a unified force for the good of the profession.
  • To establish clear and quality standards for training courses and to encourage their presence at the university system. Being part of the European Space of Higher Education might help the achievement of an official recognition of the profession from the Government and competent authorities.

Research and literature . . .

References: Bengoechea, C. (2005). “La Musicoterapia en España”. In T. Wigram, I. N. Pedersen & L. O. Bonde: Guía completa de musicoterapia: teoría, práctica clínica, investigación y formación. Vitoria-Gasteiz: AgrupArte Producciones.

Betés del Toro, M. (comp.) (2000). Fundamentos de Musicoterapia. Madrid: Morata.

Mateos, L. A. y Fonseca, N. (2008). Asociacionismo y Profesionalización de la Musicoterapia en España. En Actas del II Congreso Nacional de Musicoterapia. “Formación, profesionalización e investigación en Musicoterapia”. Zaragoza, 7 -9 Marzo 2010.Zaragoza: Estudio de Palabras.

Mercadal-Brotons, M. & Mateos Hernández, L. A. (2005). Aportaciones para la consolidación de la Musicoterapia en España dentro del E.E.E.S. Music Therapy Today, 6(4). Retrieved from

Poch, S. (2011). Music Therapy in Spain, Education, Practice and Research: Development and challenges. In Sabbatella, P. (Ed). Evidence for Music Therapy Practice, Research & Education – Selected Readings & Proceedings of the VIII European Music Therapy Congress, May 5-9, 2010, Cádiz, Spain. Granada: Grupo Editorial Universitario. ISBN: 978-84-9915-630-9.

Poch Blasco, S. y Del Campo, P. (1993). “Music Therapy in Spain”. In C. M Dileo (ed.): Music therapy international perspectives ( pp. 534-556). Pennsylvania: Jeffrey Books.

Sabbatella, P. L. (2004). Music Therapy in Spain. Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy. Retrieved March 31 2004,

Sabbatella, P. (2011). Registro Español de Musicoterapeutas (REMTA): Adaptación del Registro Europeo de Musicoterapeutas (EMTR). En Sabbatella, P. (coord). Identidad y Desarrollo Profesional del musicoterapeuta en España. Actas del III Congreso Nacional de Musicoterapia. Cádiz, 8-10 Octubre 2010. Granada: Grupo Editorial Universitario. ISBN: 978-84-9915-629-3.

Sabbatella, P. & Mercadal-Brotons, M. (2013, august). A descriptive study of Music Therapy Profession in Spain: Professional and employment status. Poster presented atIX European Music Therapy Congress, Oslo, Norway. Dr. Patricia Sabbatella (2006)idEC-UPF; Escola Superior de Música de Catalunya (ESMUC) (2014).

Professional associations . . .

In addition to the ones that have already been mentioned, some of the associations that constituted during these years are the following:

  • Asociación de profesionales de Musicoterapia (APM)which was founded in 1997.
  • Asociación Independiente de Musicoterapia (created by Victor del Río) and Asociación Hispánica de Musicoterapia Aplicada (founded by Lorenzo Amado).
  • AGAMUT (Asociación Gaditana de Musicoterapia): founded in 1999 by Dr. Patricia L. Sabatella. From 2000, it collaborates with the Universidad de Cádiz in the organization of Music Therapy training courses, especially seminars of music and medicine, as well as music and neurological diseases.
  • Asociación centro de Investigación en Musicoterapia y Comunicación no verbal del Mediterráneo, which collaborated with the Universidad Católica de Murcia in the organization of training courses and seminars.

Training programs . . .

Nowadays, there are 15 Music Therapy training courses in Spain.


To sum up, it is possible to affirm that in Spain Music Therapy is consolidating at the academic and professional level, so the prospect invites us to be optimistic. However, there are still many obstacles to overcome. Within the challenges for the future, we have cited the need of establishing clear boundaries for the profession, to avoid intrusion, to promote research and to create an Ethical Code (following the guidelines of the European Music Therapy Confederation and Music Therapy World Federation) that is adopted by the professional music therapists