The Practice of Music Therapy for Adults with Mental Health Problems

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The Relationship Between Diagnosis And Clinical Method

Helen Odell-Miller, May 2007


This Doctoral study is in two parts: Part I includes five published research articles by the author. These relate to the author's quest for defining how music therapy is placed in the field of adult psychiatry, both clinically and theoretically, and to how it defines itself in relation to psychoanalytic theory within its own community, and in the external world of health care services.

Part II includes a survey-based research project carried out across five established music therapy clinical centres in Europe designed to answer the main question: 'How are different approaches and techniques of music therapy defined in adult psychiatry, for people between 18-65 years old, which link diagnosis to treatment?'

The research design includes statistical and qualitative analysis. Main findings show that music therapy centres in the study variably define what they do and why they do it, linked to diagnosis. Outcomes show that reasons for this are linked to training and clinical judgement. Specific findings show that there are some distinct differences between techniques used for psychotic disorders and non-psychotic disorders. Techniques involving symbolic thinking are more prevalent for non-psychotic disorders, for example. Outcomes also show a prevalence of use of approaches drawing on psychoanalytic theory with a strong emphasis on techniques of free and structured musical improvisation for all diagnoses.

The study concludes that there is a need for further research and changes in attitude towards music therapy training, in order to more clearly define music therapy treatments for adults with mental health problems.

PhD Summary