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Susan Gardstrom

Professor Emerita


College of Arts and Sciences: Music


Email: Susan Gardstrom
FH 444


  • Ph.D., Music Education, Cognate in Music Therapy, Michigan State University


Susan C. Gardstrom earned a Bachelor of Music degree in music therapy from Michigan State University and a Master of Arts degree in community agency counseling from Western Michigan University, where she also completed a graduate specialty program in alcohol and drug abuse. In 2003, Gardstrom received a doctorate in music education with a cognate in music therapy from Michigan State.

While practicing as a clinical music therapist, Gardstrom worked in diverse settings, including public schools, skilled nursing care facilities and residential treatment programs. She gained extensive clinical experience with male and female juvenile offenders and pioneered intergenerational programs with this clientele and older adults. She also served clients with severe physical and mental impairments and autism, as well as adults in recovery from addictions.

Prior to teaching at the University of Dayton, Gardstrom was on the faculty at Michigan State, Western Michigan and Eastern Michigan University. She supervised music therapy practica and served as clinic coordinator at Michigan State and Western Michigan. She held numerous elected and appointed positions at the state, regional and national levels, was a frequent presenter at professional conferences and advised multiple master’s and doctoral projects. Gardstrom has authored and co-authored books on clinical music improvisation and music therapy with women in recovery. Currently, she is co-editing a guidebook for undergraduate music therapy educators.

Selected publications

Gardstrom, S., & Reddy Ward, M. (2023). Music therapists’ insights regarding a shift in practice orientation. Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy, 23(1).

Gardstrom, S., & Hiller, J. (2022). Improvisational methods of music therapy. Barcelona Publishers.

Gardstrom, S., & Willenbrink-Conte, J. (2021). Music therapy with women with addictions. Barcelona Publishers.

Hiller, J., Belt, C., Gardstrom, S., & Willenbrink-Conte, J. (2020). Safeguarding curricular self-experiences in undergraduate music therapy education and training. Music Therapy Perspectives, 39 (1), 86-94.

Hiller, J., & Gardstrom, S. (2018). The selection of music experiences in music therapy. Music Therapy Perspectives, 36 (1), 79-86.

Gardstrom, S. (2017). Women's chants for unity and strength, Vol 2. Dallas, TX: Barcelona Publishers.

Gardstrom, S., Kasmer, S., Reynolds, D., Shelton, K. (2016). Women's chants for unity and strength, Vol 1. Dallas, TX: Barcelona Publishers.

Hiller, J. M., Gardstrom, S. C. (2016). Resistances in group music therapy with women and men with substance use disorders. Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy, (

Gardstrom, S. C., Klemm, A., Murphy, K. M. (2016). Women's perceptions of the usefulness of group music therapy in addictions recovery. Nordic Journal of Music Therapy,  (

Gardstrom, S. (2016). Reading, writing, and submitting interpretivist research. In B. Wheeler & K. Murphy (Eds.), Music therapy research, 3rd edition (pp. 720-731). Dallas, TX: Barcelona.

Gardstrom, S. & Sorel, S. (2015). Music therapy methods. In B. Wheeler (Ed.), Music therapy handbook (pp. 116-127). New York: Guilford Press.

Gardstrom, S.C., Lowe, H., & Schlabig, M. (2015). Eating disorder diagnoses and treatments: An educational symposium. Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy, (

Gardstrom, S. (2013). Adjudicated adolescents. In L. Eyre (Ed.), Guidelines for music therapy practice in mental health (pp. 622-657). Gilsum, NH: Barcelona.

Gardstrom, S., Carlini, M., Josefczyk, J., & Love, A. (2013). Women and addictions: Music therapy clinical postures and interventions. Music Therapy Perspectives, 31(2), 95-104.

Gardstrom, S., Neforos, J. Willenbrink, J., & Diestelkamp, W. (2013). The impact of group music therapy on negative affect of individuals with co-occurring substance use disorders and mental illnesses. Music Therapy Perspectives, 31(2), 116-126.

Gardstrom, S. & Diestelkamp, W. (2013). Women With addictions report reduced anxiety after group music therapy: A quasi-experimental study. Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy, 13(2),

McHugh, L., Gardstrom, S., Hiller, J., Brewer, M., & Diestelkamp, W. (2012). The effect of pre-meal, vocal re-creative music therapy on nutritional intake of residents with Alzheimer’s and related dementias: A pilot study. Music Therapy Perspectives, 30(1), 32-42.

Jackson, N. & Gardstrom, S. (2012).  Undergraduate music therapy students’ experiences as clients in short-term group music therapy. Music Therapy Perspectives, 30(1), 65-82.

Gardstrom, S. (2011). (Editor-in-Chief) Qualitative Inquiries in Music Therapy: A Monograph Series, Volume Six. Gilsum, NH: Barcelona Publishers (

Gardstrom, S. & Jackson, N. (2011).  Personal therapy for undergraduate music therapy students: A survey of AMTA program coordinators. Journal of Music Therapy, 48(2), 226-255.

Gardstrom, S. & Hiller, J. (2010).  Song discussion as music psychotherapy. Music Therapy Perspectives, 28(2), 147-156.

Gardstrom, S. (2008). Music therapy as noninvasive treatment: Who says? Nordic Journal of Music Therapy, 17(2), 142-154.

Gardstrom, S. (2007). Music therapy improvisation for groups: Essential leadership competencies. Gilsum, NH: Barcelona Publishers (

Scovel, M. & Gardstrom, S. (2005). Music therapy within the context of psychotherapeutic models. In R. Unkefer & M. Thaut, (Eds.), Music Therapy in the Treatment of Adults With Mental Disorders: Theoretical Bases and Clinical Applications, 2nd ed. (pp. 117-132). St. Louis, MO: MMB.

Gardstrom, S. (2004). An investigation of meaning in clinical music improvisation with troubled adolescents. In B. Abrams (Ed.), Qualitative Inquiries in Music Therapy: A Monograph Series, Volume One (pp. 77-160). Gilsum, NH: Barcelona Publishers (