An exploration into what individual music therapy offered a man diagnosed with schizophrenia and autism spectrum disorder on an acute psychiatric in-patient ward
Music therapy is now recognised as an established intervention in the treatment of both schizophrenia and autism spectrum disorder. However, there is very little evidence in current literature which highlights music therapy as treatment when both conditions co-occur in the same individual. Furthermore, current research would suggest medium to long-term music interventions are necessary to facilitate therapeutic change in relation to both population groups. In acute psychiatric care, long-term individual therapeutic interventions are almost impossible to establish, due to short hospital admissions and a high turnover of patients. This subsequently means there is a huge gap in the literature relating to individual music therapy work in this context. This project seeks to explore the complexity of the comorbidity of schizophrenia and autism spectrum disorder, as well as the potential for individual music therapy as treatment for this population group, in relation to a six-week intervention with a young man living with this dual diagnosis. Secondary to this, the project will also explore the role and purpose of individual music therapy in an acute psychiatric in-patient setting. Data was analysed through a hermeneutic phenomenological framework, and the findings presented in the form of a single case study, followed by interpretations and further discussions in relation to the literature. The study found that individual music therapy offered this man an alternative way to communicate his thoughts and emotions through music and a space where he could begin to exercise greater freedom of expression, leading to a noticeable improvement in overall wellbeing. Overall, this project highlights the need for further study and research into best methods and practices for individual music therapy when a complex dual diagnosis is present. It also illustrates the challenges of working within an acute psychiatric setting and highlights the need for further research to establish an effective framework for individual music therapy in this context, which considers the continuity of care for the individual.