Musical and emotional attunement - unique and essential in music therapy with children on the autism spectrum

Ulla Holck, Monika Geretsegger

Research output: Contribution to journalConference abstract in journalResearchpeer-review


Background: In improvisational music therapy for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), facilitating musical and emotional attunement has been found to be one of the unique and essential principles.
Methods: Using videotaped sequences of therapy sessions from an international study (TIME-A), independent raters assessed therapists’ competence in using their behaviour and expression (e.g., through music, voice, arousal level, movement, facial expression) to allow for moments of synchronisation and attunement. Sequences with frequent occurrences of attunement were then examined in relation to musical parameters, aspects of timing in the interaction, joint vitality forms and emotional expression.
Discussion: Attunement unfolds in different ways, including regulation, selective attunement and gentle redirections of the dynamic in order to regulate the child’s arousal, attention or mood. Both attunement to the child’s vitality forms and selective attunement can be seen as essential for music therapy in ASD. They allow for joint changes in time and thereby possible steps towards early forms of joint attention.
Original languageEnglish
JournalNordic Journal of Music Therapy
Issue numberS1
Pages (from-to)34-35
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 30 May 2016
Event10th European Music Therapy Conference: A Symphony of Dialogues - the University of Music and Performing Arts, Wien, Austria
Duration: 5 Jul 20169 Jul 2016
Conference number: 10


Conference10th European Music Therapy Conference
Locationthe University of Music and Performing Arts
Internet address


  • Improvisation
  • autism spectrum disorder
  • attunement
  • vitality forms

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Musical and emotional attunement - unique and essential in music therapy with children on the autism spectrum'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this