Music Therapists’ Awareness for the Potential of Harm in Music Therapy: A Qualitative Analysis

Thumbnail Image
Wendel, Olivia M.
Master of Arts in Music Therapy
Music therapists are not immune from causing harm to their clients within music therapy services. Understanding how harm might occur in sessions from direct experience has been under researched, despite emerging literature conceptualizing where harm might arise. The purpose of this qualitative survey study was to examine instances of harm from music therapists who have caused or observed harm within a music therapy setting. Ten music therapists’ responses were recorded. Responses of instances of harm were analyzed by comparing to the Music Therapy and Harm Model (Murakami, 2021) sections (harm arising from the 1) music, 2) the music therapists, 3) therapeutic application of music, 4) client-music associations, 5) therapeutic application of music, and 6) ecological factors). Other responses recorded including music therapists’ observed client responses, the music therapists’ awareness to the harm, how the music therapist addressed the harm, and what the music therapy field could do to prevent harm. These responses were analyzed using in-vivo and descriptive codes to generate themes. Upon completion of this study, it was confirmed that the Music Therapy and Harm Model has provided a foundational framework to conceptualize where and how an instance of harm might arise within music therapy sessions, which includes harm arising from all six of the MTHM sources named above, including the primary music therapists’ awareness of the harm occurred, how the music therapist addressed the harm, how music therapists might prevent harm, and how the music therapy field should respond to harm. Additional research into including a larger sample size, identifying music therapist theoretical approaches, specific setting/population studies recommended to continue to understand the potential for harm and how music therapists might prevent these instances.