Music therapy in psychiatry today: Do we need specialization based on the reduction of diagnosis-specific symptoms or on the overall development of resources? Or do we need both?

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A growing specialization has been developed in psychiatric institutions indicating that staff members specialize in one diagnosis. Music therapists are on the one hand asked to formulate diagnosis specific treatment models; on the other hand music therapy is also recognized to both provide quality of life and different resources across diagnoses.
I think we need to be aware of these different expectations to and identifications of our profession, and to find a way to practice, to research, to present and to sell our profession in the area of psychiatry, which is inclusive. I think we need to be both clinically specialized and both psychodynamic and existentially oriented in our contribution to psychiatric treatment.
Cochrane Reviews show that music therapy has a significant impact on reduction of negative symptoms for patients suffering from schizophrenia. The reasons for this positive treatment outcome are in the literature related to music therapists´ overall attitudes and relational competencies in their work which also provide quality of life and resources for these patients. This essay, which is based on my Keynote presentation at the 7th Nordic music therapy Congress, Jyväskylä SF, June 2012, discusses this dual nature of music therapy practice and research in psychiatry, primarily in Scandinavia. Ideas for building bridges between the two perspectives are offered and an excerpt from practice illustrates these integrative ideas. I hope my ideas in this essay can foster fruitful future dialogues with colleagues working in the area of psychiatry.
TidsskriftNordic Journal of Music Therapy
Udgave nummer2
Sider (fra-til)173-194
Antal sider21
StatusUdgivet - maj 2014


  • music therapy
  • psychiatry
  • bridge building
  • diagnosis-specific methods