Evaluating current trends in psychiatric music therapy: A descriptive analysis

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Approximately 21% of music therapists report working in the mental health field, more so than another other specific client population category (AMTA, 2005). The purpose of this study was to descriptively evaluate psychiatric music therapists and their institutions, philosophies, interventions, and clinical objectives. A survey was designed and posted online or mailed to music therapists who did not have email addresses in the 2005 Member Sourcebook (AMTA, 2005). A total of 176 psychiatric music therapists completed various parts of the survey for an overall response rate of 42.9%. Respondents reported working a mean of 11.3 years in the psychiatric setting, being Board-Certified Music Therapists for 13.3 years, and working at their institution for 8.4 years. Most respondents (90.6%) indicated they did not have a music therapist as a supervisor. Group music therapy was the dominant modality in psychiatric institutions for music therapists. Respondents indicated they read music therapy journals (80%) and other types of psychiatric periodicals (57.1%), presented educational sessions at conferences (44.6%), conducted inservices for hospital staff (64.8%), worked with an interdisciplinary treatment team (77.9%), and trained practica students (43.5%) and interns (37.4%). Respondents also indicated that although most were not bilingual (85.7%), they still worked with non-English speaking consumers (58.2%). Participants noted that they enjoyed working with the psychiatric population and felt they had a positive influence on treatment as indicated by Likert-type scales. Respondents reported using primarily behavioral or psychodynamic approaches but considered their primary psychological philosophy as eclectic. Participants predominantly indicated they addressed goal areas such as socialization, communication, self-esteem, coping skills, and stress reduction/management. Participants noted they employed a variety of music therapy techniques such as music assisted relaxation, improvisation, songwriting, lyric analysis, and music and movement to address consumer objectives. Participants indicated they used therapeutic verbal skills and techniques such as humor, redirection, reinforcement, empathy, and affirmation in their clinical practice. Additionally, the results of this survey were compared to the psychiatric portion of a music therapy descriptive study published in 1979. Similarities and differences are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)388-414
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of music therapy
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2007

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