The Perception and Practice of Community Music Therapy in Ireland

Ever wondered how music therapy works in other countries? In Ireland, music is a central part of their culture and organized around participatory music and dance sessions. In “The Perception and Practice of Community Music Therapy in Ireland”, Murphy (2018) looked into how cultural music participation in Ireland differs from community music therapy. Music therapy is fairly young field of healthcare in Ireland and has developed more slowly than in the United Kingdom or the United States. Murphy practices from a community music therapy perspective, which means that her music therapy sessions adapt to the local conditions/needs and promotes health within the sociocultural context. The community model of music therapy might have more general goals for the group as opposed to rigid goals and objectives.

Ireland has a strong sense of community and culture that inherently involves music. In her research, Murphy distributed an online survey to music therapists about their perceptions of community music therapy and received 21 surveys back from the 80 music therapists practicing in Ireland. Five music therapists that also practice from a community music therapy model were also interviewed to provide more insight into the survey data.

Murphy found that the Irish love of music making together was essentially a double edge sword. That Irish people were very comfortable with music expression, especially within a group setting and this lended itself well to participation in music therapy (especially community based music therapy). However, music expression is so common in Ireland that at times the music therapists surveyed felt that music therapy wasn’t taken seriously by potential clients or within the healthcare profession.

This study/survey is important, because it shows that there can be a delicate overlap between community music making and music therapy. That advocacy for music therapy is incredibly important, especially as the field develops in Ireland. Individuals in Ireland might be drawn into participating in community music therapy by the love of making music that exists within their culture, but a distinction between the benefits of making music with peers and the benefits/goals of music therapy needs to be made. Most importantly, Murphy speaks passionately about how this cultural love of making music together often “escapes clinically defined boundaries of goals and objectives” to also include teachers, caregivers, families, and helpers in community music therapy sessions along with the clients.

By Jessica Fletcher, MM, MT-BC

Murphy, L. (2018). The Perception and Practice of Community Music Therapy in Ireland. VOICES: A World Forum For Music Therapy,18(2). doi: