Acute care mental health workers’ assumptions and expectations of music therapy: A qualitative investigation

Michael J. Silverman, Jennifer Bibb

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


A small number of papers indicate that music therapists are interested in how their work is perceived by other healthcare professionals. The research reported in this paper examined assumptions and expectations of music therapy by mental health professionals in order to understand better how music therapists might use effective strategies to empower greater knowledge of their practice and services. We conducted semi-structured interviews with seven clinical staff members of an acute mental health facility that did not have music therapy. Data were analyzed via the six phases of thematic analysis. Member checking and trustworthiness were also used. Guided by the interplay between the user, music, and music therapist that conceptualizes music therapy, we identified five emerging themes concerning assumptions and expectations of music therapy: 1) the client – potential benefits to service users, perceptions of the appropriate service user ‘type;’ 2) the music therapist – unawareness of the music therapy as an established profession with required training and skills; 3) the music – types of music ideal for therapeutic impact; 4) music therapy – treatment expectations; and 5) the context – music therapy would augment and complement existing psychosocial treatment programming. Participants tended to be unfamiliar with most aspects of music therapy and continued education and advocacy are warranted. Emerging themes can provide a framework for information to be included within educational in-services. Suggestions for future research, limitations, and implications for music therapists are provided.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)94-100
Number of pages7
JournalArts in Psychotherapy
StatePublished - Jul 2018


  • Acute care
  • Expectations
  • Mental health
  • Music therapy
  • Perceptions
  • Qualitative
  • Staff


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