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A Comprehensive Guide to Music Therapy - Theory, Clinical Practice, Research and Training

Wigram, Tony , Nygaard Pedersen, Inge & Bonde, Lars Ole (2002). A Comprehensive Guide to Music Therapy – Theory, Clinical Practice, Research and Training. Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Reviewed by Diego Schapira, Lic MT.,University of Buenos Aires, El Salvador University.

br2003_034There are books that are meant to be an essential reference for a discipline. This could be the case of the Comprehensive Guide“. It provides a very sensible and wide overview of current Music Therapy practice and how it has evolved. According to the authors, this book was originally thought to give information to medical, clinical, academic and social milieus and professionals. However, the text is very useful for music therapists.

As an “overseas” reader, I must point out an issue that comes out music therapy, which I think it is a very common cultural problem. The book aspires to cover “a need for a more general overview and guide to the complex field of music therapy that can give a comprehensive understanding of the many different theories and clinical methods that have developed internationally”. But it refers almost exclusively to developments in Europe and USA, with occasional and sporadic mentions of other countries. An example to clarify this point: a European colleague would probably find the proposal of a “general overview” regarding only developments of USA and Latin America, or just Asia and Africa, shocking. Besides this, it is a helpful book in any place of the world.

The guide contains eight chapters, one CD and one CD-ROM. Chapter 1 is an introduction to music therapy from an historical point of view. It includes the analysis of some music therapy definitions and an explanation of therapeutic understanding of music. Chapter 2 refers to theoretical foundations of music therapy. Perhaps due to its great extension, it is the most ambiguous regarding who it is addressed to. It begins with an explanation of the psychology of the music and of the relevant areas of study for music therapy. Then it goes on to synthesize therapy and psychotherapy theories that have influenced and underpinned models of theoretical thought in music therapy. At the end of the chapter, a fascinating discussion is presented from the point of view of different authors: music as analogy and metaphor. There is an excellent exemplification of music as metaphor through three baroque movements included in CD1; however, it is regretful that there is a lack of written and recorded examples for analogy.

Models and methods of music therapy are presented on chapter 3. Among them, the four most relevant in northern and central Europe: Guided Imagery and Music, Analytical Music Therapy, Creative Music Therapy and Behavioural Music Therapy. Juliet Alvin’s Free Improvisation Therapy Model was added too. There is a precise synthesis of each one of them, describing an historical outline, some definitions, the session format, procedures and techniques, clinical applications and documentation. At last, there is an explanation of physiological response to music, which allows the development of what is nowadays music in medicine and music and healing.

Chapter 4 is a good and enthusiastic description of part of the vast field of current clinical practice, and different styles and methods of clinical work are discussed. The developed fields are very well explained and founded. The case study and examples from the CD are highly illustrative, as well as the related vignettes. It is worth pointing out that not all the current clinical practice fields are explained. Even though the references are full of related literature on all fields, the unaware reader that does not reach for them could get the feeling that the only fields of practice are the ones that are extensively described in the book.

Chapter 5 focuses on two fundamental points: research and clinical assessment. A great number of texts about research in music therapy are mentioned, and problems and answers about this theme are outlined. The development of a Research Training Program at the Aalborg University is a bit too long. By the end of the chapter, the issues of assessment and clinical evaluation in music therapy are discussed, with references to the most renowned authors that have written about this theme; and there is a very good explanation of what is Evidence Based Practice.

In chapter 6, a full description of the Music Therapy Program at Aalborg University is presented as the paradigm of the European Bachelor’s/Master’s Model of music therapy training. In this case, the attention to detail is justified. It goes through from the requirements for entrance examinations to the clinical training and clinical placements. Considering the book is a general overview, a summary of the other music therapy training programs would have been welcomed by the reader.

Both chapters 7 and 8 might have been put as “addendum”. In the first one, following some considerations about music therapy associations and organizations, a useful list of associations, organizations, publications (journals and books), web sites and Internet-based resources is provided. The references to books and CD-ROMs seem a little poor. However, the bibliography at the end of the book is rich, complete and very stimulating. Chapter 8 (Glossary and Lexicon) is very helpful, and it is very smart to have italicised the defined words on their first appearance in the book, in order to facilitate consultation, if necessary.

It was a very good idea to include CD-ROM IV from Professor David Aldridge and the University of Witten-Herdecke (Germany), providing the reader with large databases, several PhD theses of music therapy, Master’s theses and a great deal of supplementary literature.

The Comprehensive Guide. is an indispensable book for both music therapy students and graduates. From a personal point of view, I am looking forward to having a good Spanish translation, so that Spanish-speaking students could enjoy and learn from it. To stroll along its pages is not only a necessary intellectual exercise, but also a pleasure.

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