I feel I should begin this article by making it clear that I am not someone who is practising music therapy in Romania. I am not Romanian. I live in the UK. So what are my credentials for writing this overview of the status of music therapy in Romania today? I am a British-trained music therapist and the director of the charity Music as Therapy, the only organisation solely focused on the development of music therapy in Romania. My own music therapy training and role in Music as Therapy have given me the opportunity to survey developments across the whole of Romania over the last eleven years. Music as Therapy now supports local workers who are developing the use of music to address the needs of children and adults with a range of disabilities in a variety of contexts in the country. This article - and my authorship of it - is an attempt to publicise the pioneering work that these people are doing and to give voice to their achievements in the field of music therapy, as it emerges in Romania today.
Romania is a country with a population of over 22 million people, which lies in South East Europe. It shares borders with the Ukraine, Hungary, Slovenia, Bulgaria and has a coastline along The Black Sea. At the turn of the last century, extravagant architecture and cosmopolitan high culture led to its capital, Bucharest, winning the nickname the "Paris of the East."
However, from 1945, when Communism took hold, this reputation was severely undermined by the dictator Nicolae Ceasescu. In 1989, following a dramatic revolution, Ceasescu and his wife were overthrown, hastily tried and killed by a firing squad. It was then that Romania's devastated economy was revealed to the rest of the world. The oppressive regime under which the Romanian population had been living became known. Perhaps most notoriously, images and stories hit the international media of horrendous institutions harbouring grotesquely neglected children and disabled adults.
This issue of a non-functioning care system is of greatest relevance to this article but, importantly, dramatic changes have been seen during the last sixteen years. Non-governmental initiatives led the way to new practice and reforming the institutions that shocked the world. The Romanian Government is itself now forcing change in this area to help assure the country a place in the EU in 2007. As this progress has been made, it has been possible for a model of music therapy to start to emerge as part of the improved care which is beginning to be seen.
There is published evidence that, before Communistic rule became dictatorial and a distorted approach to healthcare took hold, a form of music therapy was recognised in Romania that had its roots in the empirical qualities of music discussed by philosophers over the years. Called Meloterapie it was a discipline which often centred on "passive participation", when psychologists and medics would play carefully chosen music to their psychiatric patients. Under extreme Communism, a responsibility to provide holistic care to children and adults with special needs was ignored and, along with more fundamental forms of medical and social care, Meloterapie faded from common practice. But, if you search the internet today the majority of references to music therapy in Romania are along the lines of this web source:
The most frequently asked question in relation to music therapy is: What is it that moves, changes, charms, saddens, calms or makes us so happy when we listen to music? (Harja, n.d.)
However, in 1995 the concept of music therapy in a different form appeared within Romania's care system. Music as Therapy began to offer local care staff very introductory training in how interactive music-making could be used:
It did this using a skill-sharing model and enlisting the support of internationally-trained music therapists who donated their professional time and skills to work in partnership with institutions, day centres, hospital and schools across Romania. Robust tuned and untuned percussion instruments were donated to the local staff as a material resource that would enable them to practise the new skills they learned from the visiting music therapists long after the skill-sharing programme had ended. One Romanian care worker explains the role of music therapy for one of her clients,
[Music Therapy] is a place where C. can express herself in a way that she can't in any other activity. She has a huge need to communicate, to be listened to, to express herself, all of which can be achieved in these sessions. I am delighted that music therapy has given C. this opportunity to express her emotions, her thoughts. It has given me the opportunity to get to know her in a way that I haven't managed to in any other activities" (Music as Therapy, 2005)
Romania has a strong musical heritage and many care workers brought their own innate musicianship to their work, if not a formal musical training. What is now being practiced by teams of local workers in eighteen different care settings is an intuitive approach to active and interactive music-making in the care and treatment of people with special needs. Within this there are a number of qualities that appear universal in Romania's current model of music therapy:
More recently, a Romanian organisation called Impart - a beneficiary of one of the first Music as Therapy training projects - has been developing a model they call Combined Arts Therapy, which incorporates this kind of interactive approach to music-making, with drama, movement, play and art.
Because this model of music therapy has been developed in the workplace, there has not been much local research into this new field of work (although Music as Therapy has written research papers based on local practice). However, an academic interest - with its roots firmly in psychology practice, as opposed to the music-led practice of the UK and Ireland - is growing to support the practical implementation now seen in many different care settings. From 1999 the Universitatea de Vest in Timisoara, a large city in the West of Romania, ran a music therapy module for its undergraduates in partnership with Music as Therapy. In 2000, a Romanian careworker co-wrote a paper with Music as Therapy entitled, "A Combination of Expertise: A UK-Romanian Partnership Develops the Use of Music Therapy in Institutions" (Bibirus, A. & Cronly, A., 2000), which was presented at a Music Therapy Conference at Gnessin's Academy of Music in Moscow, Russia. Since 2002 the Universitatea Lucian Blaga in Sibiu has been offering its psychology students a music therapy module (supplied by Music as Therapy). 2001 also saw Romania's first International Music Therapy Conference, organised by Music as Therapy. As local ownership of the practice has grown there have been two locally organised, larger conferences exploring the role of all the Creative Arts Therapies in the future of Romania's care system.
Music Therapy is still far from established as a professional practice in Romania, although it is at least now a subject on the table for discussion. Its profile has been raised by a report from the Council of Europe which made recommendations for improving the care of children in Romania. One of the forms of intervention specifically recommended was music therapy, which the report stated " ...allows the child to develop his/her autonomy, his/her social skills and competence to communicate and form relationships with others" (Council of Europe, 2004, p. 14). In response to this the Romanian Government is now designating space for music therapy within newly built care settings.
However, structuring employment in the country's public services is a list of Job Titles to which people may be employed and within this list there are no positions to enable the employment of "therapists." The limitations of this list means that it is not yet possible to employ a music therapist despite the existence of tailor-made new facilities in some places. Furthermore, whilst Music as Therapy and their model of skill-sharing has helped to generate enthusiasm for music therapy and insight into its potential, there is no formal music therapy training which is needed before people could be recruited to work, as and when an appropriate Job Title is created.
In addition to training and employment issues, the current intuitive, organic approach to music therapy now faces challenges from the growing number of psychology professionals, dominating the reforms sweeping Romania's care system. Despite fundamental differences in methodology and approaches, it is perhaps unlikely that this recognised, academically-informed profession will tolerate lesser qualified people - such as the care workers who have been the genuine impetus and pioneers behind Romania's current model of music therapy - winning the rights to any newly created job title of "Music Therapist".
There is no formal National Music Therapy Association in Romania at present, but anyone interested in forming or supporting such an umbrella body should contact Music as Therapy via email@example.com
What is currently available is an annual music therapy publication produced in English and Romanian by Music as Therapy in partnership with all local workers running music programmes in different care settings. There is also an independent publication entitled Impreuna which is a forum to explore the development of all the arts therapies in Romania (including Combined Arts Therapy).
Whatever shape it ultimately takes, the Romanian model of music therapy - as a defined form of clinical intervention - still has its own journey to complete, alongside Romania's continuing transition as a country. Until then, I believe it to be the responsibility of visiting international music therapists to model good practice and facilitate local ownership of the discipline. Empowering local workers to find their own approach, will enable an organic professional practice of music therapy to develop that is culturally appropriate to the strengths and needs of workers and their clients in Romania. It will be fascinating to see how music therapy in Romania evolves as momentum, influence and, ultimately, recognition build.
 Part of the Fundatia de Sprijin Comunitar, Bacau
 Impreuna can be obtained through Opportunities Associates Romania. It is only available in Romanian.
Bibirus, A. & Cronly, A. A (2000). Combination of Expertise: A UK-Romanian Partnership Develops the Use of Music Therapy in Institutions. Paper presented at Gnessin's Academy of Music, Moscow.
Council of Europe (April, 2004). Rapport au Gouvernement de la Roumanie relatif á la visite effectuée en Roumanie par le Comité européen pour la prévention de la torture et des peines ou traitements inhumains ou dégradants (CPT). Retrieved April 11, 2005, from http://www.cpt.coe.int/documents/rom/2004-08-inf-fra.pdf
Harja, Greta (n.d.). Despre meloterapie sau cum sa ne tratam cu ajutorul muzicii. Eva.ro. Retrieved April 27 from http://www.eva.ro/dietafitness/articol305-print.html
Music as Therapy (March, 2005). Unpublished Report. Author
Quin, Alexia (2005). Music Therapy in Romania. Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy. Retrieved June 11, 2013, from http://testvoices.uib.no/?q=country/monthromania_may2005