Music therapy: what is it for whom? An ethnography of music therapy in a community mental health resource centre
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Reason for embargo
As requested on my submission form, to allow time for publication of articles on the basis of the work done as part of the doctoral project
Music therapy is widely portrayed either as a paramedical practice within which music is a technology applied as a form of treatment or as a form of psychotherapy within which the music plays a primarily symbolic role or acts as a lead in to verbal consideration of the patient’s presenting issues. Music therapy research currently focuses predominantly on demonstrating “evidence of effectiveness” in terms of symptomatic outcome, thus preserving a focus on the individual congruent with the medical model. In contrast, this thesis seeks to examine ethnographically the ways in which music therapy gets accomplished as a situated social practice within a community mental health resource centre in a UK urban area. Drawing both on the observations and experiences of the researcher (a music therapist already working within this setting) and on formal and informal interviews with the centre’s members and staff, it seeks to identify ways in which music therapy gets done and value ascribed to it. Observations are compared with the “norms” portrayed by dominant professional discourse, and reasons for discrepancies considered. Particular attention is paid to self-awareness, intimacy and conviviality as facets of what music therapy has to offer in such a setting, and to social capital theory and Goffman’s dramaturgical approach as broader conceptual frameworks for such affordances. Consideration is also given to the “fit” between the affordances of music itself, and the “craft” required of diverse actors in order that music therapy can be considered to offer an ecology which promotes health and well-being. Finally, the findings are re-addressed towards music therapy itself via the lens of what it means to be “clinical” in order that a sociological “craft” perspective maybe brought to bear within the discipline.
PhD in Sociology