Prof Helen Odell-Miller OBE

Professor of Music Therapy

Departmental Convenor of Research

Director, Cambridge Institute for Music Therapy Research (CIMTR)

Faculty:Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences

Department:Cambridge School of the Creative Industries

Location: Cambridge

Areas of Expertise: Music therapy

Courses taught: Music Therapy, Dramatherapy, Body Psychotherapy (Top-Up)

Helen is Professor of Music Therapy and Director of the Cambridge Institute for Music Therapy Research (CIMTR). She is widely published in the field, and lectures and presents keynotes around the world regularly.  In the 2015 New Year's Honours she was awarded an OBE for services to music therapy.



Helen teaches on our MA therapies courses, and undertakes research and clinical work in collaboration with the NHS and other services. She is co-ordinator for Research Excellence Framework (REF) submissions for Music, Dance, Drama and Performing Arts.

As a therapist, and manager of the arts therapies services in mental health for services in Cambridge, Helen contributed to the development of music therapy for adults with mental health issues in the UK and internationally. Currently she holds an honorary contract with the Cambridge and Peterborough Foundation Trust (CPFT) as a clinical research specialist, and is the principal investigator for a new NIHR-funded international research study for children with autism, in collaboration with the Trust, our University, Imperial College London University, and University of Bergen.

From 1976, working as a music therapist in the NHS, Helen pioneered music therapy in the mental health field. She jointly initiated a psychoanalytically informed approach to music therapy (Odell-Miller, 2001) collaborating from 1981 with analytical psychotherapists, other allied health professionals and arts therapists. Helen also devised improvisational music therapy research, approaches and clinical models for adults with dementia (Odell-Miller, 1995), psychosis, and personality disorders (Odell-Miller, 2014).

As well as being a member of the Council for Allied Health Professions Research for Health Education England (HEE), Helen is currently actively involved in music performance as a pianist, violinist and primarily as a singer in Cambridge Voices.

Research interests

Helen has published and lectured widely, and has been a keynote speaker at several national and international conferences in Europe, Australia and the USA. She is co-editor and an author for the books Supervision of Music Therapy (Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2009) and Forensic Music Therapy (Routledge, 2013) and has published widely in national and international peer-reviewed journals and authored many book chapters. She's a founder of the European Music Therapy Council, on several boards including for The Music Therapy Charity, The International Consortium for Research in the Arts Therapies (ICRA) and has advised with Prof Di Waller, Prof Helen Payne and Prof Peter Fonagy for the International Consortium for Arts Psychotherapies Training (ICAPT).

Helen's research areas include:

  • Music therapy and dementia
  • Music therapy and links with diagnosis in adult mental health
  • Music therapy and personality disorders
  • Music therapy and autism (TIME-A principal investigator for NIHR-funded study)
  • Music therapy and working with assistants (co-edited book in progress)
  • Music Therapy  and psychoanalysis
  •  Music Therapy for end of life care
  • Music therapy and criminology/forensic work   
  • The voice in music therapy and developing a method for students in training
  • Music therapy and supervision
  • Music therapy and arts therapies clinical and research work

Areas of research supervision

There's a thriving music therapy research culture in our Department of Music and Performing Arts, which is linked to the Jerome Booth Music Therapy Research Centre. In a state-of-the-art, purpose-designed music therapy centre, a team of music therapy supervisors, including three professors, supervise research in a variety of music therapy specialisms, some of which are listed above. Helen focuses on music therapy and dementia, music therapy in mental health and psychiatry, and forensic music therapy. 

The team is also linked to the International Music Therapy Research Consortium, which includes eight other universities in Europe, the USA and Australia. Currently the ten PhD students in music therapy work closely with other research students, including dramatherapy research students. 


  • PhD, Aalborg University, Denmark, 2003–2007 (awarded 2008). Awarded a European scholarship. The Practice of Music Therapy for Adults with Mental Health Problems: the Relationship Between Diagnosis and Clinical Method
  • MPhil Music Therapy, City University, London, 1989. Music Therapy and Dementia
  • LGSM Music Therapy, Guildhall School of Music and Drama, London, 1977 
  • BA (Hons) Music University of Nottingham, 1976

Memberships, editorial boards

  • Registered Music Therapist, Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC)
  • Member, British Association for Music Therapists (BAMT) 
  • Board Member, International Consortium for Research in the Arts Therapies (ICRA)
  • Governor Member, Music Therapy Charity (MTC)
  • Board Member, Council for Allied Health Professions Research Strategy
  • Advisor to International Consortium for Arts Therapies Training (ICAPT)  

Research grants, consultancy, knowledge exchange


Editorial Advisory Board: Nordic Journal of Music TherapyChinese Journal of Music Therapy.

Consultant teacher, researcher and external examiner including: The Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust, Goldsmith’s University, Queen Margaret’s University Edinburgh, Cambridge and Peterborough NHS Trust (honorary contract), Consultant to Methodist Homes (MHA) for older people. 2006-current, Aalborg University Denmark (PhD Board), University of Wurzburg –Visiting Professor, Teacher examiner and advisor to music therapy courses in Spain, Italy, Trinidad, Romania (University of Transylvania), The Norwegian Academy of Music.

Reviewer for: NIHR, journals including Body Psychotherapy and Dance Movement Therapy, Journal of Affective Disorders, Approaches in Music Therapy, The Nordic Journal of Music Therapy, The Australian Journal of Music Therapy and others.

Selected recent publications

Odell-Miller, H. (2016) The role, function and identity of music therapists in the 21st century, including new research and thinking from a UK perspective British Journal of Music Therapy. Vol. 30(1) 5–12 DOI: 10.1177/1359457516639549.

Gavrielidou, M and Odell-Miller, H., (2016) “An Investigation of Pivotal Moments in Music Therapy in Adult Mental Health”. The Arts in Psychotherapy .

Odell-Miller, H (2016) The Future of Music Therapy in Forensic and Criminal Justice Settings. In C. Dileo (ed). Envisioning the future of music therapy. Temple University Publications: USA.

Odell-Miller, H. (2016) Music therapy for people with a diagnosis of personality disorder: considerations of thinking and feeling. In J.Edwards (ed). The Oxford Textbook for Music Therapy OUP: Oxford.

Ettenberger, M.; Cárdenas, C.; Parker, M. and Odell-Miller, H. (2016) Family-centred music therapy with preterm infants and their parents in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) in Colombia – A mixed-methods study Nordic Journal of Music Therapy pp. 1-28 | DOI: 10.1080/08098131.2016.1205650.

Strange, J.; Odell-Miller, H and Richards, E. (2016) Collaboration and assistance in music therapy practice: roles, relationships, challenges. London: JKP (includes 1 sole authored chapter by Odell-Miller and other jointly authored).

Hsu, M. H., Flowerdew, R., Parker, M., Fachner, J., & Odell-Miller, H. (2015). The impact of music therapy on managing neuropsychiatric symptoms for people with dementia and their carers: a randomised controlled feasibility study. BMC Geriatrics. 15:84 doi:10.1186/s12877-015-0082-4.

Street., A. J., Magee., W. L., Odell-Miller, H., Bateman, A., & Fachner, J. (2015). Home-based Neurologic Music Therapy for Upper Limb Rehabilitation with Chronic Hemiparetic Stroke Patients - a Feasibility Study Protocol. Frontiers of Human Neuroscience.

Odell-Miller, H.; (2014) The development of clinical music therapy in post-war Britain as a profession in mental health practice: music, health and therapy’ in S. Goodman and V. Bates (eds.) Medicine, health and the arts in post war Britain London: Routledge.

Ettenberger, M.; Odell-Miller, H.; Rojas, C.; Serrano S.; Parker, M.; and Llanos S. (2014) Music therapy with premature infants and their caregivers in Columbia-a mixed methods pilot study including a randomized trial. Voices 14 (2) 2014.

Carr, C.; Odell-Miller, H.; and Priebe, S.; (2013) A systematic review of music therapy practice and outcomes with acute adult psychiatric in-patients. Plos One Journal.

Compton Dickinson, S; Odell-Miller, H and Adlam, J; (2013) Forensic Music Therapy. London: Jessica Kingsley. (including two chapters by Odell-Miller).

Moules, T., Clarke, S. and Odell-Miller, H.; (2012). Review and analysis of service evaluation: pilot evaluation tool for music therapy for children in palliative care. BJMT, in press. Expected date Dec 2012.

Shipley, A. and Odell-Miller, H.; (2012). The Role of Music Therapy for Anxious Adolescent School Refusers: Identity and the Self. British Journal of Music Therapy.

Pool, J. and Odell-Miller, H.; (2011). Aggression in music therapy and its role in creativity with reference to personality disorder. The Arts in Psychotherapy, 38, pp.169–177.

Odell-Miller, H.; (2011). Introduction to Music Therapy and Psychiatry. Online module published by The Royal College of Psychiatrists, June 2011 (peer reviewed).

Odell-Miller, H.; (2011). Value of Music Therapy for people with personality disorders. Mental Health Practice, 14(10).

Contribution to public documents on national strategies

House of Lords, 2015. Music Therapy Contributor for Research: All Party Debate on Music Health and Wellbeing.

Council for Allied Health Professions Research Strategy Document, 2014.

Centre for Workforce Intelligence, 2012. Education commissioning risks summary for Arts Therapies Report (WRO ECRS 2012). In press, due June 2012. Odell-Miller contributed to the writing of this report.

Odell-Miller, H., 2011. Allied Health Professions Advisory Board short paper on implications of the Borman Report.