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Inside Music Therapy: Client Experiences

br2002_016Hibben, Julie (1999). Inside Music Therapy: Client Experiences. Gilsum, NH:Barcelona Publishers.

Reviewed by Randi Rolvsjord

This is a very special book about music therapy. The focus of the book is the clients’ experiences in music therapy. The book is a collection of narratives gathered in different ways: Some clients have written there own narrative, some narratives are constructed from client-interviews, some parents have written narratives on behalf of their children who are unable to speak, and some are based on the music therapy researchers’ comments upon clients’ words. The narratives, a collection of 33, represents a diversity in different settings, groups, individual music therapy, GIM, and active music therapy. The clients are from three years to ninety years old. The narratives are mostly gathered from USA, but some are also from other western countries in Europe. The narratives are written in different styles and present diverse experiences.

In the introduction, the author of the book has outlined some categories of experiences from the various narratives that align with Ken Bruscias’ categories of musical experience (Bruscia 1998). However, I am not certain that this is very helpful for the reader to categorise the narratives according to these “levels” of musical experiences. It seems that it is not on the author’s agenda to analyse the narratives, or to use them to form an argument of how music therapy works, or even to use them to gain new knowledge about the clinical/musical processes in music therapy.

The clients in music therapy are an important resource for music therapy research.
Asking the clients about music therapy experiences – why the experience is meaningful, if they experience music to be of importance of their health, and how they evaluate the effect of music therapy upon their experience of health – could provide important data for qualitative as well as quantitative music therapy research. Hibbens’ book does not pretend to be a presentation of this kind of research that would include a thorough analysis of the material, but nevertheless, I was a little disappointed from the lack of comments upon the narratives.

And what is music therapy in this book anyway? Although the narratives represent a diversity of different musical experiences, and musical activities involved, it seems that the music therapeutic perspectives of the therapists are not very different. I assume that the narratives are gathered from clients who have been offered GIM, or music therapy – within psychodynamic theoretical orientations. I think it would have made the book much more interesting if the theoretical and methodical perspectives of the therapists had been revealed.

Despite of this, the book is worth reading. Each narrative reveals interesting aspects of music therapy experiences and is thought provoking and evokes the readers’ emotions. This is what the book presents – stories about music therapy experiences. Stories that are probably not important for music therapy research, or for the development of music therapy, but stories that are important because they acknowledge the importance of every individual human being that makes music therapeutic experiences be part of their lives.


Bruscia, Kenneth E.(1998). Defining Music Therapy. NY:Barcelona Publishers.

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