Music therapy and the resettlement of women prisoners: A mixed methods exploratory study

Helen Leith

Publikation: Ph.d.-afhandling

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Women form a minority (5%) in the UK prison system, which is predominantly designed for men. A high number of women prisoners bring experiences of trauma and abuse with them into the system. The incidence of mental health problems is inordinately high compared to the general population. Whilst an increasing number of UK music therapists work in forensic psychiatry providing treatment for mentally disordered offenders, there is a dearth of music therapists working in UK prisons. There is correspondingly little research into music therapy and women prisoners.
This embedded QUAL(quan) mixed methods study investigates whether there is a change in the self-perception of women prisoners attending music therapy, and whether, if this is the case, they show an improved ability to engage with prison resettlement interventions. It also examines the impact of different treatment lengths on outcomes.
10 participants were recruited to the program and attended (bi-)weekly music therapy sessions of 45 minutes. They attended for a minimum of 8 sessions and a maximum of 52 weeks. Clinical interventions included songwriting, improvisation, singing of popular songs, computer technology based composition, rap, and therapeutic teaching. Sessions were held by a registered music therapist.
Data was collected concurrently in the form of semi-structured interviews, self-report measurements, staff observation questionnaires and prison logs on behavioural incidents, adjudications, and program attendance. The interviews of 6 participants were coded thematically and both within participant and between participant analyses conducted. Effect sizes were calculated from the self-report and staff observation questionnaires for all 10 participants. The data was triangulated in the form of exemplary case studies.
Findings showed that women prisoners attending music therapy experienced a change in self-perception. Engagement in music therapy translated into behavioural change outside the music therapy room. Participants showed an increase in self-confidence, self-esteem, self-efficacy, achievement motivation and a number of other areas relevant to successful resettlement. There was a reduction in the number of self-harm or behavioural incidences and attendance of other programs improved. Although short-term therapy was not contra-indicated significant gains were achieved if participants attended music therapy for 3 months or longer.
For severely disaffected prisoners music therapy provided an appealing and motivating intervention, which served as an entry point to other programs required for resettlement. Women prisoners not only showed an enhanced ability to attend the programs required for their successful resettlement; music therapy created aspirations, which is of significance to downstream outcomes.
ISBN'er, elektronisk978-87-7112-172-8
StatusUdgivet - 2014


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