In a recent Voices column, Thomas Wosch (2005) asks: "Which Academic Education in Music Therapy Do We Need?" He refers to the local fight for the future of the music therapy education program in Magdeburg in Germany and links this to the changes in the university systems all over Europe. This he uses as a starting point for more general reflections on academic education in music therapy.
In an even more recent Voices essay, Hyun Ju Chung (2005) shares some of her considerations for further development of music therapy in Korea. She writes:
Music therapy is an attractive field, with lots of spot light and vision. However, music therapists should work out some of the intra-discipline issues on the professional and educational/training, in order to facilitate further development of music therapy (Chung, 2005).
The issues discussed by Wosch and Chung I find crucial. Training and education facilitate further development of quality as well as of identity, which also may be used as a resource for development of music therapy's cultural sensitivity and ability to respect differences. The reflections that I will share with you in the following paragraphs are instigated by the fact that the music therapy education where I work is about to move from a rural university college to a university in one of the larger cities of Western Norway, a move that will be influenced by the same changes in the European university systems that Wosch refers to. This situation has stimulated me to rethink what academic education in music therapy could be. I have written this column from a local and European perspective, then, leaving it to others to decide whether or not these ideas have any relevance beyond these contexts.
Part of the question of "which academic education" is related to structure, as Wosch clarifies in an argument for the importance of developing three levels of training in music therapy; the bachelor's, master's and PhD levels. This is of course a structure that already exists in many disciplines, and since the European governments have decided to adopt it as the basis for the European university systems, it is more than probable that it will be the structure of many music therapy education programs on this continent in the future. Wosch is, if I understand him correctly, quite enthusiastic about the possibilities linked to this probable change. He suggests that it will be a step towards "normalization" of the discipline and profession and argues that the quality of music therapy scholarship will be improved:
... a real MA in music therapy can be offered to music therapists holding a BA in music therapy and not for specialists of other professions. So, in the end, such MA-students are not foreigners to music therapy, and don't just start to think and act in music therapy (like with a subject of an undergraduate study course). And: these MA-students get a better basis for entering PhD-study-courses of music therapy. This will be of special importance for outstanding music therapy research, because the PhD will be their third and not only the second step in their academic music therapy training (Wosch, 2005).
I find this argument reasonable, but would like to add a few thoughts on content in relation to this probable future structure:
Any music therapy education program (that I know of) consists of a blend of music-oriented, theory-oriented, relationship-oriented, practice-oriented, and research-oriented aspects (the words used to communicate such aspects will vary considerably, but I assume most readers will recognize the blend). It reflects the fact that professional practice in music therapy requires qualifications in music as well as in interpersonal communication, in theory as well as in practical application, and should - in order to be professional - be informed by research and ethics. One approach to music therapy education could then be to let different levels of training focus upon professional competencies at different levels. This is, I believe, the logic that has been adopted by most music therapy university programs in the US, where the bachelor's degree programs are designed to prepare students to work as entry-level music therapists, while the master's degree programs are designed to provide music therapists with advanced clinical training, supported by studies in research, theory and ethics (as an example, see the information given at Temple University's web page).
I see this as one possible way of linking structure and educational content, but I do not think it is the only possibility. One issue to consider in the European context is the debate about what the entry-level to the profession should be on this continent. Consider the challenge given by Almut Seidel (2002) when she refers to EMTC's efforts for creating international comparability of European music therapy education programs:
Since the beginning of 2001 efforts have been made to have music therapy accepted in the European Union as a health profession, to register all active European therapists, to protect the title of the profession and to determine educational standards. The minimum qualifications for full membership would be, among other conditions, completion of a master's degree programme (Seidel, 2002, p. 55)
Seidel (2002) supports the idea that the completion of a master's degree program should be required for professional practice in music therapy. I tend to agree, since music therapy practice is complex and multifaceted and often requires advanced judgment in context. But, if we adopt this view, do we then need a bachelor's program in music therapy? I cannot see that we do, if we think that the only legitimate reason for establishing a music therapy education program is to educate professionals. At the same time I see Wosch's point when he argues that bachelor programs in music therapy would enhance the quality of music therapy scholarship at the master and PhD level. There is a dilemma here, then, which I find difficult to resolve.
One obvious solution could have been to establish an "integrated master program", that is, a five or six year continuous program leading to a master's degree and a professional competency. This is the solution that in my country has been developed for the training of professionals in medicine and psychology. Currently it does not seem realistic to establish this for music therapy, at least not in Norway. But there could be other directions worth considering. I will try to outline one possibility: Instead of adopting the model of giving professional training at different levels, maybe one could think of the bachelor, master, and PhD programs as having three different foci and purposes? The bachelor's program could introduce students to the discipline of music therapy, while the master's program could qualify for the profession of music therapy (including entry-level qualifications in research). Such a structure would formally not be that of an integrated master, but the logic of it would be similar; first an introduction to the basics of the discipline, then professional training. The PhD program would then qualify for advanced research, for the benefit of the discipline as well as the profession.
This simple idea requires careful examination of music therapy as a discipline. It requires that we define (and develop!) it as a field of study, rather than as a supportive territory to professional practice only. How could we define music therapy as a field of study? My own suggestion has been that music therapy as a discipline could be understood as the study and learning of the relationship between music and health (Stige, 2002, p. 198). I do not know how acceptable this definition is for most music therapists, and this is not important in this context. My agenda here is not to promote one specific definition, but to explore the idea of developing a bachelor's program in music therapy where the focus is upon music therapy as discipline more than upon music therapy as profession and professional practice.
As far as I can see, this would be a new step for music therapy, and I realize that there may be different opinions as to if, when, where, and how it should be taken. But it would not be taken completely out of the blue. Gary Ansdell (1997), Even Ruud (1998), and Ken Aigen (2005) are among the music therapy scholars that have pointed out that music therapy and other disciplines of music - such as ethnomusicology, music education, music psychology, and music sociology - have something to offer each other. Music therapists, through their practical work and through various theoretical and empirical approaches to research, have produced new knowledge about music, for instance in relation to how people may use music as dialogic and experiential medium. Music therapists have also, and this is just as important, considerable musical knowledge, that is; knowledge that to a limited degree may be expressed as theory but which exists as tacit (and indeed sounding) knowledge, articulated as empathy, sensitivity, and flexibility in the musical and interpersonal encounters of music therapy practice. How relevant, then, are these dimensions of music therapy knowledge for people outside the profession? Would a bachelor's program in music therapy (and/or modules of it) be of value not only for students preparing themselves for a future career as music therapists, but also for students planning to become say music teachers or ethnomusicologists? Would this be a positive way of sharing music therapy, sensitizing more people to the ubiquity and diversity of human musicing?
These are among the questions that I discuss with my colleagues currently. Of course, there is no perfect solution to the dilemma that I described above and the idea that I have outlined here has its own problems. Therefore, I don't know if there in the future will be such a bachelor's program in our university (or - if there will be a related bachelor's program in music with music therapy modules). Whatever happens, I think the questions are worthwhile asking, since they stimulate reflections on the identity of music therapy as discipline and profession, And whatever happens, I am quite convinced that an academic program aimed at introducing students to music therapy as a discipline could never be developed as a theory-oriented program only. It would need to have much of the same blend as I described above; with music-oriented, theory-oriented, relationship-oriented, practice-oriented, and research-oriented aspects. This is because music therapy knowledge is not only a body of knowledge about music; it is also a tradition of embodied musical knowledge. I believe, then, that the "basics of the discipline" would imply a mixture of musical, theoretical, and experiential components, somewhat similar to the one we are used to in the training courses for professional music therapists. But we would need to relate to it differently, since the goal of the education would be different. If we take the practice-oriented aspects as one example: Ways that give students access to practice-based knowledge in music therapy would need to be developed, but the students would not qualify themselves for clinical work at this level. They would, however, develop some practical skills, which they could integrate into future professional training and development, in say music education, cultural work, or music therapy, depending upon the choices made by each student.
What kind of an academic discipline could music therapy be? It is obvious that it would be small and not fully formed. It is also obvious that it could never be the sole foundation for professional training in music therapy. I mean; I assume these things are obvious if you accept the question to start with. Some would not engage in these reflections since they would not acknowledge the idea that music therapy could be an academic discipline. If we take interest in the idea and want to develop it, we could clearly not use the term "academic" narrowly to denote issues of theoretical interest only, without consideration of practical aspects or implications. We would have to use the term in a broad way, to encompass theoretical and practical aspects of research and study at the level of higher learning. This would be necessary, but probably not sufficient. We would also need to challenge our own ideas on the relationships between musical knowledge and knowledge about music, that is; we would need to see to which degree it is possible to rethink notions that treat practice and theory as split domains. In other words, we would need to challenge the established notion that music therapy is an applied discipline but still take interest in practice and in how people use music.
I want to express my thanks to my colleagues for their vivid participation in the abovementioned discussion, especially to Rudy Garred who read and commented upon a draft of this column.
Aigen, Kenneth (2005). Music-Centered Music Therapy. Gilsum, NH: Barcelona Publishers.
Ansdell, Gary (1997). Musical Elaborations. What has the New Musicology to Say to Music Therapy? British Journal of Music Therapy, 11(2), 36-44.
Chung, Hyun Ju (2005). Some Considerations for Further Development of Music Therapy in Korea. Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy. Retrieved July 1, 2005, from http://www.voices.no/mainissues/mi40005000181.html
Ruud, Even (1998). Music Therapy: Improvisation, Culture and Communication. Gilsum, NH: Barcelona Publishers.
Seidel, Almut (2002). Heading Towards Internalisation. European Comparison of State-approved Studies of Music Therapy at Master Level. Nordic Journal of Music Therapy, 11(1), pp. 54-60.
Stige, Brynjulf (2002). Culture-Centered Music Therapy. Gilsum, NH: Barcelona Publishers.
Temple University. Music Therapy Programs at Temple University. http://www.temple.edu/musictherapy/prog.htm
Wosch, Thomas (2005). Which Academic Education in Music Therapy Do We Need. Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy. Retrieved June 27, 2005, from http://www.voices.no/columnist/colwosch060605.html
Stige, Brynjulf (2005). Which Academic Education?. Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy. Retrieved May 16, 2013, from http://testvoices.uib.no/?q=fortnightly-columns/2005-which-academic-education