The Concept of Educational Music Therapy: Between Intuition and Implementation.

Robertson, James W. (2006). The Concept of Educational Music Therapy: Between Intuition and Implementation. MPhil thesis The Open University.



The investigation of this thesis is a conceptual analysis of the relationship between music therapy and music education. The stimulus for this investigation is the writer’s prospective concept of educational music therapy. The foundation of this investigation is largely theoretical and is complemented by empirical data. Music therapy and music education are distinct yet related professions. Both utilise the medium of music with philanthropic intent. While the therapist, however, will seek to use music as a clinical intervention, the teacher will wish to address educational objectives. Yet at the heart of both professions lies the concern for the well-being of humankind and how the client as well as the pupil can realise life more fully through musical interaction. In this thesis, consideration is given to inclusive environments within education. It is more likely today that pupils with special needs will be educated in mainstream schools. Consequently, it is more likely that music teachers will be required to engage with pupils across the whole spectrum of needs and abilities. However, while traditional methods of music education may not always be appropriate for those with special needs, an emphasis on therapeutic activities is dependent upon the availability of a music therapist. Thus, there would appear to be a need for music teachers to become familiar with therapeutic principles and practices. This need is the rationale for the writer’s notion of educational music therapy. From a theoretical perspective, educational music therapy is informed by recognised therapeutic principles of client-centredness, clinical intent and a concern for the promotion of health. Yet at the same time it is led by educational values of learning, skill development and critical reflection. Educational music therapy is therefore a metatheoretical concept due to its evolution from a plurality of influences and its current perceived status between intuition and implementation. From a professional perspective, educational music therapy aims for the ideal of a qualification that may be awarded to music teachers upon the successful completion of a programme of study which focuses on a therapeutic approach to music education. Ultimately, it is a systematic form of practice which can be implemented by music teachers for the benefit of pupils with special educational needs. All of the above, however, needs to be considered within a heuristic framework. Educational music therapy is primarily a concept that is unlikely to be accepted within the current regulations of the Health Professions Council. This thesis, therefore, is an argument against this status quo on the grounds that the needs of teachers and pupils might be better served by the challenging of certain boundaries. The investigation for this thesis is based on the writer’s professional experiences, a review of literature pertaining to the fields of music therapy and music education and an analysis of data from interviews with people representing these two fields. The literature review comprises the main part of this thesis and provides theoretical and conceptual foundation while the material from interviews contributes empirical support. In the opinion of the writer, the prospective concept of educational music therapy - and how this may be differentiated with the more established understanding of clinical music therapy - represents the distinct contribution to scholarship that is required of this thesis. The review of literature and the interview data lead finally to the realisation of a continuum model which is a succinct and visual outcome of this mode of thought. This model is presented as the culmination of the thesis. A justification for an educational approach to music therapy is made on the grounds that learning may be an intended outcome of therapeutic encounter and that the objectives of teaching can be health-related. For a certain population of pupils, therefore, music may be a curricular subject that holds therapeutic significance. Consequently, for a certain population of teachers, educational music therapy might be a pathway that will ultimately enable them to take educational ownership of therapeutic principles.

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