United Kingdom

British Association for Music Therapy (BAMT)

Country Representative

Rachel Swanick

Music Therapist

I have been a music therapist since 2008. I have worked with adults experiencing enduring mental ill health, children in palliative care and cancer units, post-adoption families and with profound and multiple learning difficulties. I currently work with post-adoptive families as a music therapist, an APCI assessor, a music therapy writer, a supervisor and I am a collaborator with Health & Wellbeing Team at the Manchester Museum.

Contact me at internationalofficer@bamt.org

Discover more about Music Therapy in the UK

Music Therapy in the UK is a relatively young profession. After the second world war, the use of music in hospitals was first documented and in the 1950’s various professionals formed a specialist interest organisation named the Society for Music Therapy and Remedial Music. This became the British Society for Music Therapy (BSMT) in 1967 and led to the first training course – directed by the French cellist Juliette Alvin – being established at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in 1968. Mary Priestley, who trained with Alvin, developed the idea of analytical music therapy. Around this time Paul Nordoff and Clive Robbins published ‘Therapy in Music for Handicapped Children’ and ‘Music Therapy in Special Education’ and a training course based on their approach was initiated in London in 1974 (now also in Manchester). Where Alvin’s method was considered to draw more on psychoanalytic theories in addition to music, Nordoff and Robbins emphasised the developing ‘musical relationship’ between client and therapist, expressed in musical terms. With the development of other training courses (at University of Roehampton, Anglia Ruskin University, University of the West of England, University of South Wales and Queen Margaret University Edinburgh), and state registration, a shared core syllabus, was developed.

In 1976 the Association of Professional Music Therapists (APMT) was formed. It supported the development of the profession as well as acting as a central point of contact for music therapists providing information regarding music therapy, practice, training and events. With pioneering and committed work from key members of the profession, state registration of music therapy was formally ratified by Parliament in 1996. All qualified music therapists are now required to be registered with the Health and Care Professionals Council. In 2011 the BSMT and APMT merged to become the British Association for Music Therapy (BAMT, see http://www.bamt.org/).

Definition of music therapy (taken from BAMT website) Music plays an important role in our everyday lives. It can be exciting or calming, joyful or poignant, can stir memories and powerfully resonate with our feelings, helping us to express them and to communicate with others. Music therapy uses these qualities and the musical components of rhythm, melody and tonality to provide a means of relating within a therapeutic relationship. In music therapy, people work with a wide range of accessible instruments and their voices to create a musical language which reflects their emotional and physical condition; this enables them to build connections with their inner selves and with others around them.

Music therapists support the client’s communications with a combination of improvised or pre-composed instrumental music and voice, either sung or spoken, adapted to the individual’s needs. Individual and group sessions are provided in many settings such as hospitals, schools, hospices and care homes, and the therapist’s approach is informed by different theoretical frameworks, depending on their training and the health needs which are to be met.

Initially in the UK approaches were divided into music-focused and analytic or psychoanalytically informed approaches. Today, with the development of practice and cross fertilisation of therapists working together and teaching across training programmes, there is perhaps less polarisation, though still different approaches. The model in the UK consists of active music making, using improvisation, song writing and pre-composed techniques, within a therapeutic relationship. UK music therapy trainers meet together within the framework of the Training and Education Committee and have written a core syllabus which all courses follow. This means that in practice there is much that is shared in the theoretical foundations of training. However, each course does have its own perspective and there are different theories used to describe and support clinical work. As practice develops, courses have also included developments in community music therapy, the use of technology and other extended music therapy approaches.

More can be read about theoretical foundations of music therapy in the UK in the following publications;

  • Bunt, L (l993) Music Therapy: An Art Beyond Words, London; Routledge
  • Bunt, L and S Hoskyns, (2002) A Handbook of Music Therapy, London; Routledge
  • Darnley-Smith, R and Patey, H (2003) Music Therapy, Sage Publications
  • Edwards, J. (2015) The Oxford Handbook of Music Therapy, Oxford: OUP

The professional title ‘music therapist’ has been protected by law in the UK since 1997. Music Therapists who have successfully completed one of the approved training courses in the UK are eligible for registration with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC), website: http://www.hpc-uk.org/. The HCPC sets standards of proficiency for all qualified professionals in a range of professions including arts therapists (see http://www.hpc-uk.org/aboutregistration/standards/standardsofproficiency/). HCPC is an independent body that was created by Government legislation. In 2017, HCPC launched a national campaign to highlight how statutory regulation of Arts Therapists protects service users.

As part of the regulation of the profession, continuing professional development (CPD) for UK therapists is monitored by the Health and Care Professions Council. Every two years 2.5% of registrants are selected for audit at the time of renewal of registration. This audit requires the submission of a log of all CPD activities, evidence and a profile of how they have met the relevant standards. See http://www.hpc-uk.org/registrants/cpd/ for more details. BAMT offers advice and support to those selected.

All music therapy training courses in the UK are at Masters level and are approved by the Health and Care Professions Council. The courses in the UK are as follows;

Music Therapy in the UK is thriving, with more jobs advertised recently and new work opportunities being created. Music Therapists who qualify from training courses frequently find innovative and creative ways to begin work.
New training programmes are planned in Derby and Glasgow.

Sound research is important to the progression of the profession. Knowledge of basic research skills and approaches is included in all training programmes. The majority of the UK training institutions are now offering taught PhD programmes, therefore PhD research continues to increase in academic institutions in the UK. Phd students also study at other Universities and research projects are undertaken in clinical settings. You can contact the coordinators of the BAMT research network at bamtresearch@gmail.com.

Recent publications from the UK:

Ansdell, G. and DeNora, T. (2016) Musical Pathways in Recovery: Community Music Therapy and Mental Wellbeing, Ashgate Publishing
Ansell, G. (2014) How Music Helps in Music Therapy and Everyday Life, Surrey: Ashgate
Compton-Dickinson, S., Odell-Miller H. and J. Adlam (2012) Forensic Music Therapy. A Treatment for Men and Women in Secure Hospital Settings, London: JKP
Compton-Dickinson, S and Hakvoot, L. (Ed) (2017) The Clinicians Guide to Forensic Music Therapy, London; Jessica Kingsley Publishers Ltd
Davies, A., Richards., E and Barwick, N. (2014) Group Music Therapy: A Group Analytic Approach, London: Routledge
Derrington, P., Oldfield, A. and J. Tomlinson (2012) Music Therapy in Schools – Working with Children of all ages in Mainstream and Special Education, London; JKP
Farrant, C., Pavlicevic, M., and Tsiris, G. (2014) A Guide to Research Ethics for Arts Therapists and Arts and Health Practitioners, London; JKP
Hendry, A and Hasler, J. (Ed) (2017) Creative Therapies for Complex Trauma. Helping Children and Families in Foster Care, Kinship Care or Adoption, London, Jessica Kingsley Publishers Ltd
Levinge, A. (2015) The Music of Being: Music Therapy, Winnicott and the School of Object Relations, London: Jessica Kingley Publishers
Oldfield, A., Tomlinson, J. and Loombe, D. (2015) Flute, Accordion or Clarinet? Using the Characteristics of our instruments in Music Therapy, London: JKP
Magee, W.L. (2013) Music Technology in Therapeutic and Health Settings, London: JKP
Strange, J et al (Eds) (2017) Collaboration and Assistance in Music Therapy Practice. Roles, Relationships, Challenges, London, Jessica Kingsley Publishers Ltd
Tsiris, G., Pavlicevic, M., and Farrant, C. (2014) A Guide to Evaluation for Arts Therapists and Arts and Health Practitioners, London; JKP
Thomas, D. And Abad, V (2017) The Economics of Therapy, London, Jessica Kingsley Publishers Ltd
Wood, S (2016) A Matrix for Community Music Therapy, Barcelona Publishers

Publications that represent past and current approaches and theories from the UK:

Alvin, J., Warwick, A. (1991) Music Therapy for the Autistic Child, Oxford University Press Andsell, G and Pavlicevic, M. (2004) Community Music Therapy Bunt, L. and Stige, B. (2014) Music Therapy: An Art Beyond Words, London; Routledge, 2nd Ed Bunt, L and S Hoskyns, A Handbook of Music Therapy, London; Routledge Darnley-Smith, R and Patey, H (2003) Music Therapy, Sage Publications Davies, A and E Richards (2002) Music Therapy and Groupwork. Sound Company, London; JKP Gilroy, A and Lee, C (1995) Art and Music, Therapy and Research, London; JKP Heal, M and Wigram, A (1993) Music Therapy in Health and Education, London; JKP Pavlicevic, M (1999) Music Therapy: Intimate Notes, London; JKP Pavlicevic, M (2005) Music Therapy in Children’s Hospices, London; JKP Priestley, M (1994) Essays on Analytical Music Therapy, Philadelphia; Barcelona Twyford, K. and Watson, T. (2008) Integrated Team Working. Music Therapy as part of Transdisciplinary and Collaborative Approaches, London: JKP Watson, T. (2007) Music Therapy with Adults with Learning Disabilities, London; Routledge Wigram, A (2004) Improvisation Methods and Techniques for Music Therapy Clinicians, Educators and Students, London; JKP

Chapters by UK authors in the following books:

Edwards, J. (Ed) (2015) The Oxford Handbook of Music Therapy, Oxford: OUP Sutton, J., and De Backer, J. (2014) The Music in Music Therapy: Psychodynamic Music Therapy in Europe: Clinical, Theoretical and Research Approaches, London: JKP

Selected links: British Association for Music Therapy
http://www.bamt.org/ British Journal of Music Therapy http://www.bamt.org/british-association-for-music-therapy-resources/journal.html