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Response to a Bookreview and the Theoretical and Scientific Foundations of Music Therapy

December 22, 2000; Hans M Borchgrevink:

Comments to Pavlicevic’s Response to Book Review:
Tony Wigram and Jos De Backer (Eds)(1999). Clinical application of music therapy in developmental disability, paediatrics and neurology. Foreword by Colwyn Trevarthen. London & Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley Publ.

It is rather infrequent, but indeed appreciated, if a book review can give
rise to creative discussions on fundamental issues of a profession. Music
therapy is a young profession, but with a reasonably well-established
tradition. Scientifically, this tradition is hermeneutic rather than
empirically based. Adjacent fields – e.g. developmental psychology,
neuropsychology, aging, psychiatry, learning disabilities – are in rapid
growth and development. Methods and knowledge from these fields are
relevant for diagnostic and therapeutic approach to music therapy and for
scientific evaluation of therapeutic outcome.

As pointed out in the book review, the interesting foreword of the
book in question discusses the therapeutic potential of music in the
light of the biological origin of musicality, focusing on the close
relation between musical communication and early nonverbal
communication in infants (protoconversation). This is related to
recent trends in developmental psychology, referring to the influence of
intuitive parenting, mother – child attachment, attunement and
synchronizing upon cognitive and communicational development. The
internationally well-known author of the foreword is included on the front
page. Combined, this indicated that the book includes the implications of
recent knowledge in developmental psychology on music therapy. It does not – with one exception.

I think music therapy should aim to profit from available relevant
knowledge developed in other areas. In a world increasingly focused on
cross-disciplinary network cooperation, cost-effectiveness and
evidence-based priority decisions time is overdue to start an active
search for knowledge in adjacent fields that might improve methods and
approach and increase the scientific standing of music therapy. Repeated
descriptions of therapeutic programmes and case reports that lack
scientific evaluation will hardly provide sustainable knowledge.

As stated in the review: “Despite its good intention, this book thus
demonstrates the need for music therapy to incorporate new relevant
knowledge and develop improved, scientifically based methods attuned
to different patient demands.”

Relevant knowledge is out there for free. Ignoring this, the losers
will be the patient, the field and the profession.

Hans M Borchgrevink,
Oslo, Norway


© 2000/2001: Nordic Journal of Music Therapy
(last updated January 9, 2001 by Rune Rolvsjord)