Professional Standards and the Process of Certification

In its role as a certifying body for the field of music-thanatology, MTAI is responsible for the maintenance of professional standards for the field as well as for the provision of a process for qualified individuals to demonstrate proficiency in those standards. 

The standards outlined below are designed to guarantee the quality of our profession, and it is our intent to hold forth a means of demonstrating these standards which is clear, accessible, and supportive to every eligible person who wishes to pursue certification.

A successful candidate will demonstrate all of the competencies individually, in addition to showing a solid personal and professional integration of the competencies as a whole. Finally, it should be understood that MTAI’s certification process is only available to candidates who have completed their music-thanatology education. 

The standards listed below are the foundational items in the certification process. The full list of requirements and an extensive description of the certification process (a 20-page PDF) is available upon request. For further information, hop over to the Contact Form, and direct an inquiry to the Certification Team.


Standards For Certification Of Music-Thanatologists

110.1 Personal Competencies
110.2 Musical Competencies
110.3 Medical Competencies
110.4 Clinical Competencies
110.5 Thanatological Competencies
110.6 Professional Competencies, including Documentation, Communication, Ethics & Research
110.7 Documentation of Training


110 Competencies

Members certified as music-thanatologists give evidence of the personal, musical, medical, clinical, thanatological, and professional competencies required to effectively offer the prescriptive qualities of music to meet the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of people who are dying and their families, with harp and voice.


110.1 Personal competencies shall include the following criteria

110.11 Demonstration of the commitment to the personal inner development and spiritual growth needed to practice as a music-thanatologist.

110.12 Demonstration of the ability to enter into a contemplative relationship with the patient, family, and the music at the vigil.

110.13 Demonstration of sufficient self-reflection and emotional integration to be at ease with the pain, suffering and grief that surrounds the dying and their loved ones. 

110.14 Ability to function under stress, to cope with crisis situations and to respond creatively to a multitude of challenges.

110.15 Demonstration of a commitment and ability to provide self-care.

110.16 Demonstration of the personal integrity and clear sense of personal identity needed to establish healthy and respectful relationships with others.

110.17 Demonstration of the ability to build peer relationships for the purposes of support, continued clinical and musical growth, and the further development of the field of music-thanatology.


110.2 Musical competencies shall include the following criteria

110.21 Demonstration of the music theory skills used in music-thanatology.

110.22 Demonstration of musicality and technical facility on the harp and with the voice.

110.23 Demonstration of proficiency with the basic shared pieces of music that serve as a foundation for the thematic material of music-thanatology.

110.24 Ability to demonstrate and utilize the raw materials of music.

110.25 Ability to analyze new thematic material for its prescriptive qualities and for its possible application in bedside music vigils.


110.3 Medical competencies shall include the following criteria

110.31 Demonstration of an understanding of basic human anatomy and physiology.

110.32 Demonstration of a basic understanding of common disease processes and symptomologies as they commonly manifest at the end of life.

110.33 Demonstration of a basic understanding of pain and pain management needed for good end of life care. 

110.34 Demonstration of a basic understanding of medications commonly needed for good end of life care.

110.35 Ability to speak and understand basic medical terminology and language.


110.4 Clinical competencies shall include the following criteria

110.41 Demonstration of an understanding of the principles of prescriptive music and their application at the bedside.

110.42 Demonstration of an understanding of the relationship between the prescriptive qualities of music and the physiological and phenomenological responses in the patient.

110.43 Demonstration of musical reliability, consistency, and proficiency in the delivery of thematic material using harp and voice.

110.44 Articulation and demonstration of the capacity to apply thematic material within diverse religious and cultural systems, respecting the unique spirituality of the dying person.

110.45 Demonstration of an understanding of the historical relationship between music and medicine, and the use of sound as a medicinal agent in a variety of religious and cultural systems.

110.46 Demonstration of the ability to witness and be present to the dying process, particularly the natural grieving process, as it is encountered in the bedside music vigil.


110.5 Thanatological competencies shall include the following criteria

110.51 Demonstration of a knowledge of palliative medicine and the contemporary hospice movement as it relates to the work of music-thanatology.

110.52 Demonstration of a knowledge of the culture of acute care hospitals, hospices, intensive care units, and long term care facilities as settings for end of life care.

110.53 Demonstration of a holistic understanding of the dying process.

110.54 Demonstration of an anthropological understanding of ritual, including the notions of separation, liminality, and reincorporation and their relationships to the dying process and the music vigil.

110.55 Demonstration of a basic understanding of how the history of death and dying in Western Latin Christendom from antiquity to the present affects the current predominant attitude toward death in western culture. This includes specifically an historical and anthropological understanding of the medieval Cluniac customaries and the contemporary hospice movement.


110.6 Professional competencies shall include the following criteria

110.61 Demonstrated skills in the areas of Documentation, Communication, Ethics and Research. Specific criteria within each area include:


110.611 Documentation

110.7611.1 Demonstration of the ability to reflect on a vigil and write a contemplative clinical narrative of the experience.

110.611.2 Ability to document effectively in the medical chart. 

110.611.3 Ability to keep any necessary records of vigil experiences


110.612 Communication

110.612.1 Demonstration of the ability to offer effective music- thanatology presentations.

110.612.2 Demonstration of the ability to effectively communicate with other disciplines regarding principles of prescriptive music, to function as part of a team of caregivers, and to make appropriate interdisciplinary referrals.

110.612.3 Demonstration of the ability to read charts, case histories, and medical information with enough understanding to participate in interdisciplinary team meetings.

110.612.4 Ability to network with other professionals, both locally and nationally, in order to improve patient care and to promote professional growth.


110.613 Ethics

110.613.1 Demonstration of appropriate ethical behavior of a professional caregiver in the medical setting.

110.613.2 Demonstration of a basic knowledge of end of life ethical issues.

110.613.3 Demonstration of an understanding of regulations regarding patient confidentiality and patient rights


110.614 Research

110.614.1 Demonstration of the ability to do clinical, scholarly, and reflective research and a willingness to be involved in research in order to further the field of music-thanatology.


110.7 Documentation of formal training in music-thanatology

110.71 Completion of a music-thanatology program. 

110.72 Completion of clinical training including fifty (50) supervised vigils under a certified music-thanatologist with written narratives.

110.73 Participation in clinical reviews with certified music-thanatologist(s) until supervised vigils are completed.

110.74 Demonstrated proficiency with the basic shared thematic pieces of music.