United Kingdom

History and background . . .

Music Therapy in the UK is a relatively young profession. After the second world war, the use of music in hospitals was first documented and in the 1950’s various professionals formed a specialist interest organisation named the Society for Music Therapy and Remedial Music. This became the British Society for Music Therapy (BSMT) in 1967 and led to the first training course – directed by the French cellist Juliette Alvin – being established at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in 1968. Mary Priestley, who trained with Alvin, developed the idea of analytical music therapy. Around this time Paul Nordoff and Clive Robbins published ‘Therapy in Music for Handicapped Children’ and ‘Music Therapy in Special Education’ and a training course based on their approach was initiated in London in 1974 (now also in Manchester). Where Alvin’s method was considered to draw more on psychoanalytic theories in addition to music, Nordoff and Robbins emphasised the developing ‘musical relationship’ between client and therapist, expressed in musical terms. With the development of other training courses (at University of Roehampton, Anglia Ruskin University, University of the West of England, University of South Wales and Queen Margaret University Edinburgh), and state registration, a shared core syllabus, was developed.

In 1976 the Association of Professional Music Therapists (APMT) was formed. It supported the development of the profession as well as acting as a central point of contact for music therapists providing information regarding music therapy, practice, training and events. With pioneering and committed work from key members of the profession, state registration of music therapy was formally ratified by Parliament in 1996. All qualified music therapists are now required to be registered with the Health and Care Professionals Council. In 2011 the BSMT and APMT merged to become the British Association for Music Therapy (BAMT, see http://www.bamt.org/).

Definition of music therapy (taken from BAMT website)
Music plays an important role in our everyday lives. It can be exciting or calming, joyful or poignant, can stir memories and powerfully resonate with our feelings, helping us to express them and to communicate with others.
Music therapy uses these qualities and the musical components of rhythm, melody and tonality to provide a means of relating within a therapeutic relationship. In music therapy, people work with a wide range of accessible instruments and their voices to create a musical language which reflects their emotional and physical condition; this enables them to build connections with their inner selves and with others around them.

Music therapists support the client’s communications with a combination of improvised or pre-composed instrumental music and voice, either sung or spoken, adapted to the individual’s needs. Individual and group sessions are provided in many settings such as hospitals, schools, hospices and care homes, and the therapist’s approach is informed by different theoretical frameworks, depending on their training and the health needs which are to be met.

Theoretical Foundations . . .

Initially in the UK approaches were divided into music-focused and analytic or psychoanalytically informed approaches. Today, with the development of practice and cross fertilisation of therapists working together and teaching across training programmes, there is perhaps less polarisation, though still different approaches. The model in the UK consists of active music making, using improvisation, song writing and pre-composed techniques, within a therapeutic relationship. UK music therapy trainers meet together within the framework of the Training and Education Committee and have written a core syllabus which all courses follow. This means that in practice there is much that is shared in the theoretical foundations of training. However, each course does have its own perspective and there are different theories used to describe and support clinical work. As practice develops, courses have also included developments in community music therapy, the use of technology and other extended music therapy approaches.

More can be read about theoretical foundations of music therapy in the UK in the following publications;

  • Bunt, L (l993) Music Therapy: An Art Beyond Words, London; Routledge
  • Bunt, L and S Hoskyns, (2002) A Handbook of Music Therapy, London; Routledge
  • Darnley-Smith, R and Patey, H (2003) Music Therapy, Sage Publications
  • Edwards, J. (2015) The Oxford Handbook of Music Therapy, Oxford: OUP

Recognition and approval . . .

The professional title ‘music therapist’ has been protected by law in the UK since 1997. Music Therapists who have successfully completed one of the approved training courses in the UK are eligible for registration with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC), website: http://www.hpc-uk.org/. The HCPC sets standards of proficiency for all qualified professionals in a range of professions including arts therapists (see http://www.hpc-uk.org/aboutregistration/standards/standardsofproficiency/). HCPC is an independent body that was created by Government legislation. This year, HCPC launched a national campaign to highlight how statutory regulation of Arts Therapists protects service users.

As part of the regulation of the profession, continuing professional development (CPD) for UK therapists is monitored by the Health and Care Professions Council. Every two years 2.5% of registrants are selected for audit at the time of renewal of registration. This audit requires the submission of a log of all CPD activities, evidence and a profile of how they have met the relevant standards. See http://www.hpc-uk.org/registrants/cpd/ for more details. BAMT offers advice and support to those selected.

Research and literature . . .

Sound research is key to progress. Knowledge of basic research skills and approaches is included in all training programmes and a number of the UK training institutions are now offering taught PhD programmes. Stuart Wood and Neta Spior are currently the joint co-ordinators of the BAMT research network. PhD research continues to increase in academic institutions in the UK.

Recent publications from the UK:

Ansdell, G. and DeNora, T. (2016) Musical Pathways in Recovery: Community Music Therapy and Mental Wellbeing, Ashgate Publishing
Ansell, G. (2014) How Music Helps in Music Therapy and Everyday Life, Surrey: Ashgate
Compton-Dickinson, S., Odell-Miller H. and J. Adlam (2012) Forensic Music Therapy. A Treatment for Men and Women in Secure Hospital Settings, London: JKP
Davies, A., Richards., E and Barwick, N. (2014) Group Music Therapy: A Group Analytic Approach, London: Routledge
Derrington, P., Oldfield, A. and J. Tomlinson (2012) Music Therapy in Schools – Working with Children of all ages in Mainstream and Special Education, London; JKP
Farrant, C., Pavlicevic, M., and Tsiris, G. (2014) A Guide to Research Ethics for Arts Therapists and Arts and Health Practitioners, London; JKP
Levinge, A. (2015) The Music of Being: Music Therapy, Winnicott and the School of Object Relations, London: Jessica Kingley Publishers
Oldfield, A., Tomlinson, J. and Loombe, D. (2015) Flute, Accordion or Clarinet? Using the Characteristics of our instruments in Music Therapy, London: JKP
Magee, W.L. (2013) Music Technology in Therapeutic and Health Settings, London: JKP
Tsiris, G., Pavlicevic, M., and Farrant, C. (2014) A Guide to Evaluation for Arts Therapists and Arts and Health Practitioners, London; JKP
Wood, S (2016) A Matrix for Community Music Therapy, Barcelona Publishers

Publications that represent past and current approaches and theories from the UK:

Alvin, J., Warwick, A. (1991) Music Therapy for the Autistic Child, Oxford University Press
Andsell, G and Pavlicevic, M. (2004) Community Music Therapy
Bunt, L. and Stige, B. (2014) Music Therapy: An Art Beyond Words, London; Routledge, 2nd Ed
Bunt, L and S Hoskyns, A Handbook of Music Therapy, London; Routledge
Darnley-Smith, R and Patey, H (2003) Music Therapy, Sage Publications
Davies, A and E Richards (2002) Music Therapy and Groupwork. Sound Company, London; JKP
Gilroy, A and Lee, C (1995) Art and Music, Therapy and Research, London; JKP
Heal, M and Wigram, A (1993) Music Therapy in Health and Education, London; JKP
Pavlicevic, M (1999) Music Therapy: Intimate Notes, London; JKP
Pavlicevic, M (2005) Music Therapy in Children’s Hospices, London; JKP
Priestley, M (1994) Essays on Analytical Music Therapy, Philadelphia; Barcelona
Twyford, K. and Watson, T. (2008) Integrated Team Working. Music Therapy as part of Transdisciplinary and Collaborative Approaches, London: JKP
Watson, T. (2007) Music Therapy with Adults with Learning Disabilities, London; Routledge
Wigram, A (2004) Improvisation Methods and Techniques for Music Therapy Clinicians, Educators and Students, London; JKP

Chapters by UK authors in the following books:

Edwards, J. (Ed) (2015) The Oxford Handbook of Music Therapy, Oxford: OUP
Sutton, J., and De Backer, J. (2014) The Music in Music Therapy: Psychodynamic Music Therapy in Europe: Clinical, Theoretical and Research Approaches, London: JKP

Selected links:
British Association for Music Therapy
http://www.bamt.org/
British Journal of Music Therapy http://www.bamt.org/british-association-for-music-therapy-resources/journal.html

Professional associations . . .

The professional association for Music Therapists in the UK is the British Association for Music Therapy (BAMT http://www.bamt.org/). Ben Saul has been Chair since November 2015. BAMT holds a register of members (including a ‘find a therapist’ function via the website), and an additional register of approved supervisors and consultants. Their twitter account is (@musictherapyuk).

BAMT combines professional membership with lay associate membership and is dedicated to supporting practitioners and furthering the profession in the UK. BAMT members have access to regional groups and networks focusing on specialist areas, both of which provide a range of CPD opportunities. In addition, BAMT publishes the British Journal of Music Therapy bi-annually, with an Editorial team of Tessa Watson, Alison Barrington and Kay Sobey (now online with Sage publications).

BAMT engages with policy makers and regulators to ensure that music therapy provision continues to meet the highest professional standards and is based on the best available evidence. This means representation and contribution to the work of the Department of Health (including Allied Health Profession Clinical Experts), the Centre for Workforce Intelligence, the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (including contributing to guidelines about specific diagnoses/conditions).

Every two years there is a UK Music Therapy week (in 2015 held on 22nd-28th June; the third such event). In alternate years BAMT holds a national conference, with the second national conference taking place in Glasgow in February 2016.

Training programs . . .

All music therapy training courses in the UK are at Masters level and are approved by the Health and Care Professions Council. The courses in the UK are as follows;

University of Roehampton, London (http://www.roehampton.ac.uk)
Guildhall School of Music and Drama, London (http://www.gsmd.ac.uk)
Nordoff Robbins Music Therapy, London and Manchester (http://www.nordoff-robbins.org.uk)
University of the West of England, Bristol (http://www.uwe.ac.uk)
Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge (http://www.anglia.ac.uk)
Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh (http://www.qmu.ac.uk)
University of South Wales, Newport (http://www.southwales.ac.uk/)

Music Therapy in the UK is thriving, with more jobs advertised recently and new work opportunities being created. Music Therapists who qualify from training courses frequently find innovative and creative ways to begin work.