Musical Assessment of Child Perceptions in Changing Family Situations


  • Victoria Fansler Slippery Rock University, United States


Assessment, musical assessment, qualitative assessment, assessment of child perceptions, cultural assessment, culturally responsive, changing family situations, child welfare, foster care, adoption, child grief, youth, children, CPS, family music therapy, systems therapy, Native, Native American, indigenous, First Nations, musical portrait, improvisation


The following article describes a systems-oriented, music-indigenous process for assessing individual children’s perceptions of their family systems. It was developed for use in individual and family music therapy contexts, with children who have experienced trauma related to changing family situations (including foster children, recently adopted children, children recently reunified with biological parents, and children who have temporarily or permanently lost contact with a significant family member). It is designed for use with children age five and older.

In the assessment, the child uses instruments to create a musical and visual family portrait. The child chooses an instrument to represent themself, plays a short improvisation representing themself, and places the instrument somewhere in the space before them. The child then identifies a family member and repeats the process for that family member: choosing an instrument, playing an improvisation, and placing the instrument somewhere in relation to the first. This process repeats until the child has represented all the family members they wish to include. The therapist can derive salient information about the child’s perceptions of their family system through the family members chosen, instruments chosen, musical elements of the improvisation, and spatial relationships in the visual portrait.



How to Cite

Fansler, V. (2018). Musical Assessment of Child Perceptions in Changing Family Situations. Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy, 18(4). Retrieved from