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“Growing Perspectives in theory and Practice”. Music Therapy Research Vol.1.

br2001_04FSRobarts, Jackie (Ed.)(2000).”Growing Perspectives in Theory and Practice”. Music Therapy Research Vol.1. East Barnet: British Society for Music Therapy, BSMT Publications.

Reviewed by Torben Moe, Ph.d. Music therapist, FAMI.

Growing perspectives is a collection of 9 articles written by music therapists embarking on research.

Jacqueline Roberts, who is the editor of the book, mentions in the preface that the book is not a research manual but the author’s different perspectives and experiences of being in the process of researching. The book contains practical
research from experienced music therapists, who after many years of clinical work dips into research. Several of the articles concern the researcher as being therapist and researcher at the same time. Positive perspectives as well as difficulties being in both positions are discussed.

Overall the book is very well composed, and all articles include important ideas, questions and comments of contemporary music therapy research.

In 1999 Barbara Wheeler was the keynote speaker at the 1st. Music Therapy Research Convivium in England organised by British Society of Music Therapy. Wheeler is the first contributor in the book, and her first article is
based on this keynote speech. This is very good idea, since Wheeler carries on from the subject of her book ” Music Therapy Research: Quantitative and Qualitative perspectives” to clarify the distinctions between those
perspectives. Wheeler sums up the different perspectives in a table showing typical questions the quantitative versus the qualitative researcher is involved in.

Wheeler suggests that the most useful and rewarding music therapy research will occur when the music therapist/researcher selects questions that are of interest and determines the methodology based on how those questions can be best answered.

The next contributor is Penny Rogers who – from the title: “Truth or Illusion: Evidence-Based Practice in the real world” – suggests a better balance between the number of randomised controlled studies and the need to apply guidelines derived from more rigorous enquiry in the real world. Rogers looks for more qualitative, process and prevalence studies in the literature about evidence -based practice. She states that this is an important and significant omission that those working in mental health need to address. Ken Aigen from the Nordoff -Robbins Institute in NY is the next contributor. Aigen examines three examples from Creative Music Therapy looking at the relationship between the researcher and the researched from three different researcher positions. Aigens research focuses on:

  1. a study of the work of two colleagues by filming their sessions, 
  2. examining archival clinical recordings and contemporary work which illustrate
    paths of development in Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy, and finally 
  3. Being both a clinician and researcher in a project called “Playing in a
    band” including jam sessions with a young handicapped man. 

Aigen focuses especially on the influence of the researcher’s background
in the research situation.

Amelia Oldfield does also refer to three different music therapy research projects she has been involved in over a longer period. The first study concerned groups of adults with severe learning disabilities. The aim of the study was to find out how effective music therapy was at achieving a set of objectives with this population. The second study was a smaller project with groups of mothers and pre-school children. This study recently ended in 2000, and the third project, which involves children with autism, has just started. Oldfield summarises that in planning the latest research, she was using systems from the previous ones. Oldfield outlines some of these ideas, as they may be useful to other clinicians interested in setting up similar research projects. The list includes, in my view, some good basic hints and practical guidelines for people who consider doing research. Mercedes Pavlicevic takes over after Oldfield. Pavlicevic starts with a short presentation reflecting upon her own attitude towards music therapy research, as a result of the growing number of more substantial music therapy literature about non-positivist/naturalist/post-positivist world views. Pavlicevic, who has mainly worked with schizophrenics, continues with a description of her research project: Improvisational Music Therapy and the Rehabilitation of Persons Suffering from Chronic Schizophrenia. The description includes revision of her inspiring assessment scale: Music Interaction Rating for Schizophrenia – MIR (S). MIR is a nine level model of schizophrenic patients’ interactive capacities revealed in a musical context.

Next contribution is Barbara Wheeler’s second article concerning work with disabled children. Wheeler focuses on the experience of pleasure in working with disabled children. At first she reflects upon the theme of how relevant it would be for other music therapists to hear about her personal experiences. Coming to the conclusion that uplifting moments in working with these often very handicapped kids might have general interest, Wheeler looked for areas, which includes uplifting moments from a number of videotaped sessions. Wheeler concludes that she hopes, that what she learned about her pleasure in working with these children, it will help other music therapists to be more aware of pleasure and satisfaction in working with this population.

Music Therapy and Interplay: A Music Therapy Project with Mothers and Children Elucidated through the concept of “Appreciative Recognition” – is the title of the next authors project. The Norwegian music therapist Gro Trolldalen first presents a short view of research for her, a personal and professional journey. Her research focus is based on a music therapy project at a child care institution, where mothers and children (aged 2-4 years) participated in a music therapy group for four months. Trolldalen asks how “recognition” can be seen in musical interplay and sheds light upon processes in music therapy. Trolldalen presents a closer definition of what “recognition” means in her setting, and describes four different areas in which she experienced potentials for positive change.

  1. Emotional sharing through “recognition”
  2. Playing -social -belonging – identity
  3. Mutual regulation through joint focus of attention and
  4. Competence of interplay skills.

In the end of her article Trolldalen raises important questions concerning validity and reliability. She focuses on the time aspect, her role as a participating observer, and finally considerations concerning the collection
of the videotaped data.

Jacqueline Robarts focuses in the next article on poetic processes in music therapy. Robarts’ main area in research is poetic processes and cultivation of symbolic function in music therapy. Robarts mentions especially two
poems, which for her elucidate the creative-constructive properties of musical-aesthetic form. Based on clinical material Robarts presents preliminary stages of a field model of poetic processes in music therapy. From five different perspectives: musical, psychobiological, developmental, psychodynamic and qualities of resistance, Robarts matches three fields of musical and personal forms:

  1. Foundations of meaning in music,
  2. Meaning arising in emergent musical-aesthetic forms and finally
  3. Symbols of self: personal and universal musical narratives.

Wendy L. Magee closes the book with an helpful article addressed to the novice researcher highlighting some of the practicalities worth considering in order to complete research successfully. Magee has been working as a clinician at a hospital in South London which specialises in the rehabilitation and continuation care of people with traumatic head injuries. Magee presents a research path for the researcher in the clinical setting including following steps: Preparation, planning, pilot, and research, underlined with important specific issues on the way.

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