“Music therapy helped me get back doing”: Perspectives of music therapy participants in mental health services

Music therapy is used in both inpatient and outpatient mental health settings to support patients in their recovery process.  Music therapists use a variety of interventions to achieve interdisciplinary goals outlined for each patient. A 2016 study conducted in Ireland examined six mental health patient’s experiences in music therapy and ways they felt participation in music therapy aided their recovery process.

Participants described their experiences with music therapy during one or two interviews, which were then transcribed and analyzed for different themes using interpretive phenomenological analysis.  Each of the six patients described a unique relationship with the music and personal benefits of participation in music therapy. One participant felt that participation in music therapy made him feel comfortable in expressing himself, and gave him the freedom to do this in a way that was best for him.  Another participant noted that participation in music therapy motivated him to re-engage in personal music making helped him develop this as a leisure skill. Others noted that music therapy sessions reminded them of past musical experiences, provided a structure for interpersonal interaction, highlighted ability vs. disability, provided a means for developing sound tolerance, or even created an environment that was visually stimulating.

Researchers noted that dialoguing with “service users” regarding their experience in music therapy provides a clearer picture as to the ways music therapy can benefit patients in mental health settings.  As can be seen in the results, each patient experiences the music differently and display varied outcomes after participation.

By Amber Bruns, MM, MT-BC

McCaffrey, T., & Edwards, J. (2016). “Music therapy helped me get back     doing”: Perspectives of music therapy participants in mental health       services. Journal of Music Therapy, 56(2), 121-148.         https://doi.org/10.1093/jmt/thw002