Review of Music Therapy Conference - First Research Projects

Philippa Derrington SRAsT(M)

First Research Projects was the first music therapy conference in the UK to deal solely with this topic, and the first large music therapy conference to be held at our University. There were 60 participants from all over the UK. Congratulations to Amelia Oldfield for organising such a successful, collaborative event between the British Society for Music Therapy and our Department of Music and Performing Arts.

The conference was chaired by Helen Odell-Miller, Music Therapy Course Director, and introduced by Head of Music Paul Jackson.

It was a thought-provoking day that looked at various ways of carrying out music therapy research. Six music therapists presented research projects, which covered a wealth of material, from clinical experimental investigations to more reflective studies. An impressively broad view of research was presented and led to interesting questions being raised.

It was especially interesting to hear the speakers share their personal reflections on being engaged in music therapy research and to pick up very useful, practical advice. Amelia Oldfield in her opening words inspired the conference with her infectious energy! Although each of the papers addressed aspects of music therapy research the presentations were very varied.

At the end of the morning and afternoon sessions, there was time for more general questions and discussion. Points that were raised included the subject of evaluation methods, the use of questionnaires, advice about the ethics committee and funding. Although some projects may be limited, due to the difficulty of getting sufficient funding, it was encouraging to hear how many research projects need not run up enormous costs. The enquiring atmosphere throughout the day evidently generated open, purposeful discussion. It was particularly interesting to hear how ideas for research had originated and how even an apparently simple question has the scope for becoming a critical and lengthy enquiry.

The enthusiasm for research was contagious and by the end of the day, it felt that doing research was a more tangible concept, and certainly more plausible within the working situation. The focus of the conference, to look at starting up and engaging in music therapy research, was explored in depth. The day provided an invaluable opportunity to learn of current research, discuss research ideas and on-going projects as well as time to catch up with colleagues and friends, culminating in a very enjoyable and inspirational day. I shall remember the day for innovation, motivation and enthusiasm.

Summaries of papers

Ann Woodward
Small-scale research: evaluation as part of establishing new work

Ann described a completed small-scale piece of research carried out with the assistance of the educational psychologist, Michelle Clubb, as part of a pilot project. This pilot project took place in a special school, where the therapist worked for one day a week, and was the first step in establishing a music therapy service for children in Hertfordshire.

The research aimed to evaluate the impact of music therapy on the children's perceived abilities and difficulties in the areas of communication, social interaction, emotional development and learning. Detailed questionnaires were completed by staff, parents and therapist, before during and after a year-long period of music therapy. Initial findings of the research were presented, with an exploration of its strengths and weaknesses, and thoughts about how such a form of research might be developed.

Aimee Yates
"Who am I?" Engendering a sense of identity through music therapy

In this reflective paper Aimee started by expressing the view that issues of personal identity are central to good mental health. She then went on to explore how personal identity issues were addressed in music therapy in her work with clients with anorexia nervosa as well as in her work with mothers suffering from depression. By looking at two case studies, she drew out some interesting parallels in these two different settings. She concluded that music therapy can be a relevant and sometimes unique intervention when addressing issues of personal identity.

Helen Loth
Evaluating the selection process for music therapy trainees - setting up research to examine the correlation between the experiential group and the interview procedure

Helen talked about a research project she was just in the process of setting up. She explored how music therapists initially start up research projects and how it was useful to identify what question was driving the music therapist to do research in the first place, and used Mercedes Pavlicevic's concept of the "ping". She explained how she wanted to find out how APU determined whether potential music therapy trainees communicated through their music making, and outlined a possible methodology for her proposed research investigation.

Nicky O'Neill
"What am I doing here? A role for music therapy with paediatric immunology patients."

Nicky presented her on-going research project which aims to explore the potential of music therapy in acute paediatric immunology as defined by the emotional and psychological needs of the children. The study adopts a qualitative research paradigm and is based on a series of semi-structured interviews, involving a patient, parents as well as staff from the multidisciplinary team. This presentation was illustrated by some very moving and engaging video excerpts.

Hilary Palmer
Facilitating positive thinking - Exploring, developing and thinking about research in music therapy

In this paper, Hilary looked at the possibilities of developing new approaches in music therapy, how far a therapist can go in creating new methodologies and how this can be researched. These ideas were explored in the context of her own experience of writing an MA dissertation. She looked at how she formalised her ideas leading up to the writing of her MA: 'The development of a music therapy approach for working with the Rett Syndrome child' and discussed the processes in which these ideas found a voice. As a comparison, she also discussed her current idea of developing a comprehensive methodology for music therapists working with families, with thoughts on how this also might be researched.

Rhian Saville and Esther Mitchell
Personal reflections on an evidence-based music therapy pilot project

Rhian described the planning, implementation and development of a completed evaluative music therapy pilot project in the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service in Nottingham. She examined the process of undertaking the project by addressing practical issues around setting up the work and discussing the evidence upon which it was based.

The work was evaluated through case studies and questionnaires, thus providing qualitative and quantitative data, which was written up and presented to staff teams. The results of the investigation were discussed along with the therapists personal insights into the clinical work and research process. She concluded with reflections on undertaking an evidence-based pilot project and thoughts around future work, evaluation methods and research.