The use of music as a therapeutic agent was an essential part of healing practices and rituals in Ancient Greece. Nowadays, there is a wealth of literature about these practices, as well as their philosophy with regards to music’s healing powers and its connections to physiological, emotional, social and spiritual aspects of wellbeing (e.g., Georgiadi , Elpida, 2007; Kopsacheilis, 1996; Makris & Makri, 2003; Ntziouni, 2009; Polychroniadou, 1989; West, 1999). Of course, the very words "music" and "therapy" originate from the Ancient Greek words μουσική (mousike, meaning art of Muses) and θεραπεία (therapeia, meaning service, curing, healing) respectively – whose original meaning still inspires contemporary therapists worldwide. Music therapy in modern Greece (Hellas) draws on this rich background, and is currently in a formative and rather exciting stage of development.
This paper attempts to provide an overview of music therapy’s development and current state as a contemporary profession and discipline in Greece. It addresses a spectrum of aspects with regard to music therapy services, education and research in Greece. Also, legal and professional issues are discussed and an outline of relevant Greek literature and publications is given which can guide the reader in other relevant sources of information.
The information provided through this paper is drawn from a range of sources, including official publications, anecdotal material, as well as my own personal experience. This range of sources aims to provide a clear and honest account of music therapy in Greece, where various perspectives are embraced (even when these may appear conflicting). It is worth clarifying that this paper does not attempt to make a detailed reference to the work of each individual who has contributed to the development of music therapy in Greece. However, I would like to warmly thank and express my appreciation to each one of them. I hope this paper will create a platform for further dialogue and discussion. Contributions from Greek music therapy practitioners are welcome.
The first seeds of music therapy’s development as a contemporary profession and discipline in Greece can be traced in 1980’s, when people started travelling abroad in order to learn more about the art and science of music therapy. Most of these people already had a professional background in music, special education, psychology or medicine, and when they returned to Greece they applied their new knowledge and experience through their own professional fields. They also gave public talks, conducted seminars and workshops in order to share their experiences and raise awareness about the therapeutic power of music. Gradually the first posts for practitioners using a therapeutic approach to music making (without necessarily being certified music therapists) were established.
Following this early period, an increasing number of people became interested in undertaking an official full training in music therapy, and consequently becoming certified music therapy practitioners. Especially since 2000, a significantly growing number of music therapists who were qualified abroad have returned to Greece and have set high standards for the music therapy profession and discipline.
Today, there are approximately forty certified music therapists in Greece. Music therapy services are offered to a range of populations and settings, with the majority of them concentrated in large urban areas (i.e., Athens, Thessaloniki, and Volos). However, music therapy is still not recognised as a profession by the State and music therapy services are not covered by the national health system.
Music therapy is offered in both private and public education, healthcare and social care settings. Additionally, some specialised music therapy centres have been developed, such as the centre Musicing in Athens (www.musicing.gr), and the Kleio Laoudi Centre in Volos (www.laoudi-music.gr). According to some statistics which were announced in 2008, almost 60% of the music therapists work in special educational needs settings, 30-40% work in mental health, and less than 10% work in medical and hospital settings (including oncology). Also, the majority of music therapists (more than 70%) are part-time employed and therefore work in more than one organisation (for details, see Papanikolaou, 2011a).
Music therapy is offered in a variety of formats (such as individual or groups sessions, or in community settings) and follows a range of methods and approaches, such as music-centred music therapy, psychodynamic music therapy, and Guided Imagery and Music). This range of approaches reflects the rich diversity of trainings, theoretical and professional backgrounds that music therapists in Greece bring to their practices.
The Hellenic Association of Certified Professional Music Therapists (ESPEM ) was founded in 2004 (www.musictherapy.gr). ESPEM is the official professional body of music therapists in Greece and since 2007 it represents the country to the European Music Therapy Confederation (EMTC) and worldwide.
The Association was originally named as the Hellenic Association of Qualified Professional Music Therapists (ESKEM), but its name changed to ESPEM in the summer of 2009 (as explained later in greater detail). Evangelia Papanikolaou served as the Founding President of the Association from 2004 until the summer of 2010. The current President of the Association is Dimitris Koukourakis. Some main aims of ESPEM (2011) are:
Additionally, an important goal of the Association is to achieve State Registration and official recognition of music therapy profession in Greece. It also aspires to contribute to the future establishment of an official music therapy training programme.
ESPEM has regular, cadet (student), and honorary members. Regular membership is open only to certified music therapy practitioners who practise either in Greece or abroad. As for the honorary members, these are individuals who have contributed significantly to the development of related fields of practice in Greece (such as music and medicine, and special music education). Today, the Association counts thirty-six registered members (thirty-three regular and three honorary members). This number, which constantly grows as newly certified music therapists join the Association, represents the majority of music therapists who are currently practicing in Greece.
As mentioned above, music therapy is not a protected professional title in Greece yet. Therefore there is no regulatory body protecting the professional title of music therapists, as well as the quality of music therapy services that are provided to the public. Subsequently, ESPEM is the only official body which sets the professional standards for music therapy in Greece.
Preceding the establishment of ESPEM, the Hellenic Music Therapy and Creative Expression Society was founded in 1992 and it appears to be the first official attempt of developing an organisation to support the development of music therapy in Greece. The Founding President of the Society was Lianna Polychroniadou who also acted as the first representative of Greece to the EMTC. However, this Society appears to have been inactive over the past years and has no formal connection with ESPEM. Based on information available in the old website of the EMTC, the Society’s members were both lay members who were interested in music therapy, and “officially trained music therapists” (while many of them had also a second medical, paramedical or artistic profession). However, finding further information about the Society and its members is a difficult task. The Society has no website and relevant information could be found only in some old publications (Polychroniadou-Prinou, 1993) and out-of-date or unofficial web sources (such as the old website of EMTC and some Greek online blogs).
Looking at the wider picture, other arts therapies professional associations have been founded over the past years in Greece. The Greek Association of Dance Therapy was founded in 1993 (www.gadt.gr) and the Hellenic Art Therapists’ Association was founded in 2005 (www.arttherapists.gr). Additionally, the Greek Association of Drama and Play Therapists was founded in 2004 (www.edpe.gr), as a continuation of the former Greek Society for Drama Therapy – Theatre and Therapy which was founded in 1989. The afore-mentioned associations do not yet form a wider arts therapies body (such as an arts therapies confederation), but this can be a promising possibility for the future development of the arts therapies in Greece.
A significant legal step towards the recognition of music therapy as a profession in Greece took place in October 2008, when the latest Special Education Act was ratified (Official Journal of the Hellenic Republic, 2008). According to this Act, some new "sections" for practitioners working in pre-school, primary and secondary special education needs settings were created, including a section for music therapy practitioners. This was exciting as for first time music therapy was mentioned in the Greek legislation. However, this Act brought serious problems with regards to who is considered to be “qualified” to practice as a music therapist in Greece.
In article 20 of the Act (paragraph 2.2), a set of typical qualifications that one needs to have in order to be employed and practice as a music therapist in special needs settings is defined. According to these criteria one must have a PhD and/or a post-graduate diploma and/or an undergraduate diploma in music therapy from a recognised university. However, the minimum qualification one must have in order to practice as a music therapist is a diploma from a music conservatory. In this case the conservatory needs to be recognised by the State and the diploma holder’s registration with the respective conservatory needs to have taken place before the establishment of Music Departments in Greek Universities in 1985-1986. Taking a practical example, a person who received a piano diploma in 1984 from a conservatory (officially recognised by the State) is considered by the Act as “qualified” to be employed as a music therapist in special education settings. In this case, it becomes clear that the Act does not (necessarily) require candidate music therapy employees to have any kind of music therapy training or experience. Similar problems with regards to music therapists’ typical qualifications occur in other sections of the Act.
The Special Education Act 2008 has obviously created confusion regarding music therapy training and qualification both to the public and professional communities in Greece. The Association became majorly concerned about this situation, as it opposed its own efforts to set professional standards for music therapy in Greece according to the European standards. In response to the Act and in order to protect music therapy professionals, students, employers and service-users, the Association made some strategic amendments in its statute and changed its name in the summer of 2009. Therefore, the Association’s name changed from Hellenic Association of Qualified Professional Music Therapists (ESKEM) to Hellenic Association of Certified Professional Music Therapists (ESPEM) (see Papanikolaou, 2011a, 2011b; Tsiris, 2011a). Namely, the term “qualified” (which was used by the Act) changed to “certified”, in order to allow only practitioners who have an official music therapy certification according to the European standards to become members of the Association.
The current situation in Greece is somehow conflicting; one can be possibly regarded as “qualified” to practice as music therapist (according to the Greek legislation), but without a music therapy certification is unable to become a member of ESPEM. This creates a tension between the standards of the Association and those of the State; a fact which could possibly have further repercussions on other aspects of the development of music therapy in Greece, including the possibility of service-users and/or employers receiving conflicting information with regards to who can use the professional title “music therapist” and offer safe practice.
Looking at the positive side of the Special Education Act 2008, some further professional pathways have hesitantly opened for music therapists in special education settings. Despite the ratification of the Act in 2008 however, music therapy has not been official recognised as a profession by the State yet.
Until now, there is no full music therapy training programme at State University level in Greece. Music therapy is only taught as an introductory or optional module within the wider curriculum of some Music or Education University Departments (e.g., Department of Music Studies, Ionian University in Corfu).
According to the Hellenic Music Therapy and Creative Expression Society, the training programme “Music/Art in Therapy, Pedagogy and Prevention" was established in 1994 under the auspices of the Society. According to Polychroniadou, who was both the President of the Society and the Director of its training programme, this was a three-year music therapy post-graduate training programme. The Society also offered some other elementary courses for those who were interested to music therapy but did not attend the post-graduate training (Polychroniadou, unknown date, old EMTC website). However, no further information and official record with regards to this training programme, its activity and graduates could be identified. The programme, as well as the Society itself, appears to have been inactive over past years.
In order to qualify as a music therapist therefore, one needs to travel and study abroad. Consequently, all certified music therapists working in Greece have been qualified abroad. Almost 75% of them have been qualified in the United Kingdom and the rest have been qualified in the USA and various European countries (see Papanikolaou, 2011a). Their diverse training backgrounds and experiences create a rich palette of practical and theoretical approaches within the Greek music therapy community, including music-centred, as well as psychodynamic approaches to music therapy. The absence of a full music therapy training programme is linked to music therapy’s poor integration within the wider Greek academic community. This is partly connected to the very limited number of music therapists who have completed studies at a PhD level - something which is, in principle a prerequisite for someone to become a staff member and teach in State Universities in Greece. However, some music therapists (most of them with Masters qualifications) have started collaborating with higher education institutions as visiting or external collaborators.
Having no official training programme, conferences and seminars are a vital medium through which both the public and academic communities in Greece can be informed and learn more about music therapy. Encouragingly, a growing number of music therapists present their work at conferences. Some of these conferences are dedicated specifically to music therapy, but most of them to related fields of practice (e.g., music education, psychology, and special education). Below, I provide a list of some selected conferences which have taken place during the last twenty years in Greece and contributed to the development of music therapy. This list follows a chronological order and provides some information regarding each conference (e.g., organising body / association, potential publications, etc):
In addition, an increasing number of music therapy seminars and workshops take place across Greece. These seminars and workshops vary in focus, length and content; none of them however provides music therapy certification according to the standards of ESPEM and EMTC respectively. Some examples of extended seminars include a two-year seminar led by Dr. Dora Psaltopoulou at the Conservatory Music College in Thessaloniki, as well as some one-year seminars led by Maria Froudaki at the music therapy centre Musicing in Athens.
Seminars and workshops are usually facilitated by music therapists working in Greece. Also, some experienced music therapy practitioners, teachers and researchers from abroad are occasionally invited to give keynote conference presentations (as indicated in the above list of conferences) or conduct relevant seminars and workshops. Some examples include the following international colleagues: Rachel Verney (11 November 2004, Athens), Pauline Etkin and Sandra Brown (19 February 2005, Athens), Merete Birkebaek (1 October 2006 in Athens), Kay Sobey (20 November 2006 in Athens), Isabelle Frohne-Hagemann (31 March 2007 in Athens), as well as Alison Levinge and Alison Davies (14-15 April 2007 in Athens).
Some reports with regards to the above conferences and seminars are available online (e.g., Dauber, 2007; Kalliodi, 2007; Papanikolaou, 2007; Tsiris, 2007). Similarly, some letters of the afore-mentioned (and other) international colleagues addressing to the Greek music therapy community are available online (see Approaches: Music Therapy & Special Music Education, volume 1, issues 1 and 2, http://approaches.primarymusic.gr).
The gradual development of music therapy practices and indigenous knowledge in Greece has led to a respective growth of the literature, which includes the publication of books, book chapters, articles in peer-reviewed journals, conference proceedings, as well as magazines and newsletters. Further information and references for each type of publication are given in the following sections.
Various books, originally written in Greek, which explore the therapeutic power of music and its application in health and education settings, have been published. Most of these books have been authored or edited by practitioners who specialise in related fields of practice (such as music medicine, music education, and drama therapy). See for example the books by Dritsas (2003a; 2004), Evdokimou-Papageorgiou (1999), Kartasidou (2004), Kartasidou and Stamou (2006), Kessler-Kakoulidi (in press), Sakalak (2004), and Tobler (2001). Also a small, but increasing number of music therapists have authored or edited books (e.g., Etmektsoglou & Adamopoulou, 2006) as well as book chapters (e.g., Adamopoulou, 2008; Froudaki, 2003; Mavroudi, Dourou, Koukourakis et al, 2010; Papanikolaou, 2010; Psaltopoulou, 2003, 2006; Samara, Mpeka & Markovitis, 2006). In addition to the above, some books related to music therapy which are originally written in English have been translated in Greek language (e.g., Bean & Oldfield, 2006; Campbell, 2007; Gilroy & Lee, 2000; McClellan, 1997; Ward, 2000).
Approaches: Music Therapy & Special Music Education is the first music therapy peer-reviewed journal in Greece, and is an affiliated partner of the Greek Association of Primary Music Education Teachers (GAPMET). It was founded in September 2008, in response to the need for development of dialogue and research both within the music therapy and special music education communities in Greece. As a peer-reviewed journal, Approaches plays a key role in the development of disciplinary knowledge and professional practices in Greece (but also abroad) by acting as a forum both for public collation of evidence and negotiation-in-action of professionalisation (Tsiris & Procter, 2009).
Approaches is a biannual electronic publication (http://approaches.primarymusic.gr) and follows an open access policy (see Tsiris, 2010). Official languages of Approaches are both Greek and English. The first issue of the journal was published in May 2009 and until now it has published four regular issues (with many national and international contributions), as well as a special issue with the proceedings of the first conference of ESPEM . Greek music therapists contribute to the journal on a regular basis both by publishing articles and contributing to the peer-review procedures as members of its editorial board.
In addition to the journal, the website of Approaches provides a range of other online resources: the Newsletter of Approaches, a regularly updated list of upcoming events (national and international), as well as a wide range of web links (for further information regarding Approaches, see Tsiris 2009a, 2009b).
Before the establishment of Approaches, music therapy articles were published mainly in Greek music education journals, such as Music Education and Music Pedagogics (both published by the Greek Society for Music Education). Nowadays, music therapy articles are published in a wider range of Greek journals, including some from the field of psychology and musicology. In addition, some Greek music therapists have gradually started publishing their work in international peer-reviewed journals.
As mentioned above, a growing number of music therapists present their work in conferences in Greece. Often their presentations lead to publications in conference proceedings, book chapters or articles. Some examples include: Adamopoulou (2009), Akogiounoglou-Christou (2009), Antonakakis (2000), Böhmig (2006), Froudaki (2003, 2009), Georgiadi, Elizabeth (2006), Kalliodi (2006), and Psaltopoulou (2006). The proceedings of the first one-day conference of ESPEM were published on the journal Approaches: Music Therapy & Special Music Education, and are available online: http://approaches.primarymusic.gr.
Some music therapy publications (such as brief texts, interviews, and reports) are occasionally included in informal magazines which relate to music, health or education (e.g., Levi, 2009; Papanikolaou, 2006; Tsiris, 2008). This helps raising awareness to wider and lay audiences in Greece.
Of course, another useful channel of informing the public about music therapy activity in Greece is through the publication of Newsletters. Since February 2010, Approaches (in addition to the journal) publishes a Newsletter on a regular basis which includes both national and international news and upcoming events, as well as some news specifically related to Approaches. Similarly to the journal of Approaches, its Newsletter is published electronically both in Greek and English. It is distributed free of charge to its mailing list which currently counts approximately 850 members. The Newsletter of Approaches has already published ten issues.
In addition, ESPEM has a newsletter which is called “The Press of ESKEM”. This newsletter published four issues between 2005 and 2007, and since then it has been inactive. This newsletter was published only in Greek and its content mainly included news with regard to the Association and music therapy in Greece, as well as conference reports, book reviews and announcements of upcoming events. The Press of ESKEM was initially published in paper format, but some issues are now available online on ESPEM’s website (www.musictherapy.gr). The Editors of this Newsletter were Markus Dauber and Chara Savvopoulou.
Lastly, according to Polychroniadou (unknown date, old EMTC website), the Hellenic Music Therapy and Creative Expression Society published a multi-language magazine in March 2001. Its name was Music Therapy and Creative Expression, but no copies of the magazine or further information with regards to its activity could be found.
Music therapy research in Greece is underdeveloped; a fact that leads to a lack of indigenous evidence and findings. Until now, some case studies following mainly qualitative methodological designs have been published, while other studies remain anecdotal. Most of the anecdotal studies have been conducted by Greek music therapists as part of their music therapy training abroad (e.g., Apostoliadi, 2009; Papadopoulou, 2009). Also, as mentioned before, only couple music therapists in Greece have completed their PhD. Among them, Dr. Dora Psaltopoulou received her PhD in 2005 at the Department of Education, Aristotle University in Thessaloniki. This is the only PhD awarded to a music therapist by a Greek University.
Research in related fields of practice is more advanced and their studies provide some useful indicators for music therapy too. For example, some studies which have been conducted in the fields of music medicine (e.g., Dritsas, 2003b, 2009) and special music education (e.g., Kartasidou & Soulis, 2000; Kartasidou & Tsiris, 2007) provide some evidence for music therapy.
The poor music therapy research activity in Greece relates to a matrix of reasons. A major reason is funding. Research funding has been very limited, especially since the country’s recent financial crisis which started in the summer of 2010. This applies not only in relation to music therapy, but across most scientific fields in Greece. Of course, without State Registration and official professional recognition, music therapists are even in a weaker position for receiving research funding. Similarly, having no official music therapy training at State University, music therapy practitioners have no access to funding opportunities which could be possibly accessed through University Departments.
Having in mind the connection between the establishment of indigenous evidence and the development of music therapy posts and education, the growth of research appears to be a necessity for the future of music therapy in Greece. As Tony Wigram said in an interview in 2000 while reflecting on the general development of music therapy profession:
“[...] we need to try and move away from being the ‘pioneer profession’ and exploring our values, to saying “We know what we are doing” [...]. Now they’re asking “Does it work?” – they won’t put money into something that hasn’t demonstrated some record of being effective. So we’ve got to put together our evidence. I think everybody can contribute to that, from the person who’s writing a single case study to those who’ve done quantitative randomised control trials. In my opinion, the critical factor for the next 10 to 15 years is to really consolidate our position by being able to be confident about what we do” (Wigram, 2000, p. 12).
I believe that Wigram’s words describe precisely the way towards which music therapy also needs to move in Greece. There is an urge to start generating and collating indigenous evidence by taking into consideration the application of music therapy within Greek society’s particular cultural, political, economic, social and musical characteristics. This will provide a solid ground upon which political and economic decisions can be taken for the sound establishment of working and training frameworks for music therapy in Greece (Tsiris, 2011a).
Having in mind all the above, music therapy in Greece is poised at an exciting stage in its development, whilst facing various challenges, mainly in legislation, research and training level (Tsiris, 2009a). Despite all the difficulties and challenges however, it is important to keep in mind that this formative stage provides space for pioneering initiatives and actions (Etkin interviewed by Tsiris, 2010); something that takes courage and calls for passionate vision, strong will and dedication in practice.
The increasing number of Greek students, who travel abroad to study music therapy, and then serve the development of the profession in Greece, is promising. However, the achievement of State Registration and official recognition of music therapy as a profession remains a crucial step for its development in Greece. Above all of course, a spirit of solidarity and community among all people involved in the field of music therapy in Greece is vital. According to Aesop (620-560 B.C.), the great Ancient Greek mythologist, “Unity is Strength.” The growth of this sense of unity, togetherness and companionship within the Greek music therapy community is a catalyst for the effectiveness and strength of its vision, will and actions.
I would like to thank Markus Dauber, Dimitra Koniari and Dimitris Koukourakis for providing information where necessary for this paper, as well as Ergina Sampathianaki for her useful comments and questions. Finally, I would like to acknowledge and thank each individual who contributes to the development of music therapy in Greece.
 There is no official English abbreviation for the Association’s name, so the official Greek version (i.e., ESPEM) is used throughout this paper.
 To find some further information with regards to the Hellenic Music Therapy and Creative Expression Society, please visit the old EMTC website: www.wfmt.info/Musictherapyworld/modules/emtc/greece/emtclist.php. The current report of Greece (from ESPEM) is available to the new website of the EMTC: www.emtc-eu.com.
 For a review of the publications of Approaches: Music Therapy & Special Music Education since 2009, see Tsiris (in press).
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