Exploring the Client-Therapist Relationship in Music Therapy
A Qualitative Study in Adult Mental Healthcare
Keywords:user perspective; music therapy; mental health; client-therapist relationship; trusting relationship; power relations
Introduction: Most of the existing literature on the therapeutic relationship in music therapy rests on the researcher’s point of view. Hence, there is a limited amount of research that focuses on what creates a helpful client-therapist relationship from the client’s perspective. This study aimed to explore what participants from various psychiatric units at different hospitals in Norway find to be helpful characteristics in the client-therapist relationship in music therapy.
Method: Four participants were interviewed using in-depth semi-structured interviews focusing on their perspectives on what creates a helpful client-therapist relationship in music therapy. Through the use of interpretative phenomenological analysis, two superordinate themes, each with four following subordinate themes, were developed.
Results: Two super-ordinate themes were developed, namely “Power relations” and “Feeling safe and being challenged.” The participants expressed that “to not feel judged,” “the use of layman’s language,” “informality, flexibility, and collaboration in treatment,” as well as “trust” and “honesty” are important elements for a helpful client-therapist relationship.
Discussion: The findings presented in this article, are discussed in relation to theory from psychology, music therapy, and previous studies from the field of mental healthcare. All participants spoke about previous experiences of power imbalance in mental health care. The findings suggest that a relationship that is based on equality and mutual respect contributes to a feeling of trust – all of which are proposed as helpful characteristics in the client-therapist relationship in music therapy.
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