During the summer break I and my colleagues involved in training music therapy students in Bristol, UK have been kept busy writing many documents and getting use to a whole new jargon and way of describing music therapy training. We are transferring the post-graduate Diploma in Music Therapy from the Department of Music at the University of Bristol to the Faculty of Health and Social Care at the University of the West of England (UWE). Both universities are in the same city, their main sites only a few kilometres/miles apart!
The distance bears little resemblance to the change in context since we are transferring the training from one situated in a music department to one rooted in health and social care. Members of the music department, whilst supportive of the overall ethos of music therapy as a profession, do not view developing an academic discipline of music therapy as part of their long-term strategic planning. While based within the Department of Music we needed to invite visiting lecturers to cover all the applied psychology, counselling skills and the so-called non-musical aspects of the training. We now have this kind of expertise to draw on from within UWE's Faculty of over 500 staff, one of the largest in Europe. The transfer process has been both amicable and stimulating, with both universities supportive of the move. But here is the first change of box. Since 1991 the Bristol training has benefited from being rooted in a musical environment and a music-centred emphasis to training has always been fundamental to me since I began teaching as part of the music therapy team at London's Guildhall School of Music and Drama in 1980. In gaining the expertise from colleagues within the Faculty of Health and Social Care at UWE we would need to make sure that the music-centred nature of the course would not be subsumed.
As we have worked with this transfer process it has been stimulating to read the recent Voices columns by Thomas Wosch (June 6th), Brynjulf Stige (July 4th) and more recently Lia Rejane Barcellos (September 26th). In this column I would like to add my voice to the on-going debate and to share some thoughts about our current process. Stige is also involved currently in a process of transfer as the course in which he is involved is moving from a rural university setting to one based in a large city. Like Stige my comments relate to a local and national context but are also part of on-going debates within Europe. I hope they will be of interest to other music therapists engaged in training. Wosch has been fighting for his training course in Germany and in his column he elaborated current debates in Europe about the length of training and what kind of degree—BA, MA etc. Here in Bristol we can certainly relate to some of these debates. Barcellos related her experiences over three decades of training music therapists in Brazil and added an interesting point to Stige's overall question "Which academic education?" She asked: "would it be possible to consider the most adequate 'model' of Music Therapy Education and does our reality permit this?" The themes explored by these three columnists permeate the rest of what I want to explore.
Stige noted that most music therapy trainings are a "blend of music-oriented, theory oriented, relationship-oriented, practice-oriented and research-oriented aspects." Our team recognises such a blend. How would the overlaps inherent in this blend fit into the boxes and specifications of the module system now so much part of university-based education in the UK? There have been many advantages in spending time to re-assess the training and to produce the various learning outcomes for many of the new modules. It has not proved too difficult to find such outcomes for the theory-based, practical skills-based and dissertation-based modules. The exercise helped to articulate in a clear and coherent way what we had intuitively known and practised for many years and the constant reviewing and re-writing of the documentation have produced a potentially more rigorous course. In this process we have been assisted by a group of experts within UWE well versed in writing such documentation. We have been able to learn from the experiences of the other allied health professionals and to listen to advice from occupational therapists, physiotherapists and other colleagues coming from sociological or psychological backgrounds. The core members of the music therapy teaching team have been supported and very impressed by the quality and rigour of this writing process, even if writing by committee is a long and arduous process.
But how could we maintain the unique flavour of this particular training whilst understanding the need for keeping to agreed standards and the demands of quality assurance? How could we guard against what Frank Furedi calls in a recent text Where have all the intellectuals gone? "a new ethos of managerialism that dominates intellectual and cultural life" (Furedi, 2004, p.2)? In Bristol in addition to the music-centred and overall humanistic approach, we have always stated that the practice is central to the training to which all other aspects relate. When discussing the clinical practice modules it has proved to be more complicated to box in certain aspects of what students should be able to learn by the end of each interlocking placement module in the areas of: knowledge and understanding, intellectual skills, subject/professional and practice skills and transferable skills and other attributes. Furedi challenges this contemporary institutional branding of knowledge. "Often knowledge is conceptualised as a ready-made digestible product that can be "delivered", "marketed" and "consumed" (ibid. p.7). How can we guarantee that our students are digesting the correct parts and being assessed appropriately? Take for example the task of assessing therapeutic presence. We can observe and possibly rate how our students use musical interventions, demonstrate knowledge and awareness of the needs of clients, manage a range of different situations and relate to other staff and the specific context. But into what box and with what rating structure do we put our intuitive observations that this or that student has a natural ability to be wholly present? Can we create sufficiently subtle measures to rate at what internal depth any one student is able to hold and contain within each shifting present moment a wide range of emotional material as manifested in the musical dialogues within individual or group work? These are challenges to a boxing-in of the knowledge base.
The transfer across Bristol to a different university coincides with a government initiative within the UK that from September 2006 an MA is to become the point of entry to the profession. Our reality is that changes have to be made and we fit the trainings into bigger boxes. For us in Bristol this has not resulted in a straightforward transfer but the extension of a two-year part-time post-graduate model of training to three years. This is the minimum requirement of the Health Professions Council (HPC) which since 2002 has been the legislative body for the State Registration of Arts Therapists. During 1997 music, art and drama therapies were granted by Act of Parliament the right to become state registered. Music therapists are now registered within the HPC alongside other allied health professionals such as occupational therapists and physiotherapists. There are many positive outcomes of this new registration. The public is legally protected and it is now an offence if anybody uses the title without being registered. Our status is finally protected. To become registered a music therapist has to be trained on a course that has been validated by a visiting group from the HPC. All the UK courses now have to go through this validation process and our validation event is scheduled for late November. If the course is approved the first MA group will start their 3-year training next January.
Once again there are obvious positive aspects of making the training longer, not least to bring it more in line with developments in Europe and elsewhere. But apart from major financial implications of longer training for the students there are downsides that need further exploration. There are the potential employment issues of guarding against the danger of establishing a two-tiered system. Imagine the situation of a head of a hospital unit balancing up applications from a recent MA music therapy graduate and one from a therapist with possibly a few more years experience but with only a post-graduate diploma. Then there is the whole notion of having to accept as a fait accompli the Master's level as a national pre-requisite. To date it has been possible in the UK to register as a music therapist holding a post-graduate diploma in music therapy (there is no first degree in music therapy at present). Such a diploma was awarded as evidence of fitness to practice. It was felt by many as an appropriate title to enter a profession which by its very nature had a vocational and highly practical emphasis. The most common entry route to training is via a first degree in music or diploma from a conservatoire or, if a degree is in another subject such as psychology, then with a high level of musical competence. This remains. But how are we to be creative about the production of the common academic end result for an MA, namely the 12,000word dissertation? Do all potentially able and intuitive music therapists entering our trainings want to put their work into that particular box? Will we not attract some mature musicians who have always been quite able to fulfil all the theoretical, musical and personal requirements of gaining a post-graduate diploma but not at all interested in the more traditional MA kind of thesis? For many years I have been worried about this and the potential loss to the profession of high quality candidates. Not all music therapists are by their very nature gifted academics or researchers. I have tended in the past to be against the notion of an add-on or top-up MA at the end of a training course. I have been impressed while examining MAs for another arts therapy training when experienced practitioners return to their centre of initial training to write a substantial piece of work as the result of extensive experience and several years out in practice. Perhaps I am old-fashioned but this is what I have always viewed as work at a Master's level. So how are we managing this in Bristol? Firstly we are making sure that all modules across the three years clearly will be at the Master's level. In many ways it has become clear during the process of writing that what we have been teaching for some years fits quite comfortably within this Master's level at least regarding critical analysis and reflection. We are currently exploring creative alternatives to the final dissertation module. These MA students will not have extensive clinical experience to produce in-depth pieces of clinical reflection or research. However they will be part of an academic environment that will enable them to produce systematic reviews of literature pertinent to their particular line of inquiry. Series of case studies could be presented using a variety of texts and original and creative formats: visual, aural, written including musical transcripts of material. The work of more experienced music therapists could be studied and researched. There is a need for more historical documentation of our profession and for more philosophical inquiry. These kinds of boxes will help to keep alive a more creative spark as alternatives to the more traditional MA thesis.
It has been refreshing over recent years to witness musicians from non-classical traditions training as music therapists and discovering their own personal styles as music therapists. We hope to keep alive this tradition in the new training. Other musicians from many backgrounds are also becoming more interested in the whole notion of music and health. There are growing numbers of community musicians working in similar contexts as music therapists. Orchestras and other musical groups are developing outreach community-based projects that again touch on contexts where music therapists are working. There are enormous implications here for trainers in music therapy and our university is keen to explore the whole continuum of the relationship of music to health. Are we able to create practical and theoretical modules for musicians who want to work in health-related areas but not to train specifically as music therapists? Stige reminds us in his column of how music therapists have much to offer to other disciplines such as music education, the psychology of music, ethnomusicology etc. and vice versa. The notion of new kinds of courses where music therapists work and dialogue with musicians from other traditions and backgrounds has great potential. This is one box that seems to have never-ending sides.
A final question: into what box do we put those moments of inspiration between student and teacher when sparks leap, ideas take off and lead into uncharted waters and those odd moments of rare insight? Just read any of the accounts of the subtle relationship between student and teacher in George Steiner's Lessons of the Masters to gain some flavour of what hopefully can still form part of the facilitating and bringing out of all that is best in our students.
Barcellos, Lia Rejane Mendes (2005). Three Decades of Qualified Music Therapists in Brazil. Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy. Retrived October 14, 2005, from http://www.voices.no/columnist/colbarcellos260905.html
Furedi, Frank (2004). Where Have All The Intellectuals Gone? Confronting 21st Century Philistinism. London: Continuum Books.
Stige, Brynyulf (2005). Which Academic Education? Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy. Retrived October 14, 2005, from http://www.voices.no/columnist/colstige040705.html
Steiner, George (2003) Lessons of the Masters. Harvard University Press.
Wosch, Thomas (2005). Which Academic Education in Music Therapy Do We Need. Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy. Retrived October 14, 2005, from http://www.voices.no/columnist/colwosch060605.html
Bunt, Leslie (2005). In Which Box Does Music Therapy Training Fit. Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy. Retrieved May 15, 2013, from http://testvoices.uib.no/?q=fortnightly-columns/2005-which-box-does-music-therapy-training-fit