“There has probably never been a more important time to be a music therapist”: An exploration of how music therapists working in the field of adult mental health have experienced their practice during the COVID-19 pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has had enormous ramifications the world over and here in the United Kingdom (UK), affecting many aspects of life, including mental health, music, and music therapy practice. Music therapy is an effective intervention in adult mental health care with a substantial evidence base behind it. Due to the recency of the pandemic, there have been few peer-reviewed studies exploring its effect on music therapy practice. This paper aimed to explore the experience of music therapists based in the UK, practicing in the field of adult mental health, during this period as an attempt to provide an in-depth understanding of how both they and their practice have been affected. Interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) served as the methodology for this paper, underpinning all steps of the method. Three music therapists with the experience of practicing in adult mental health care in the United Kingdom during the pandemic participated in semi-structured interviews. Through data analysis, six common themes were identified between the participants from the interview transcripts. These were: “Music therapists experienced initial impacts on their own mental health”, “Music therapists are adaptable”, “Online music therapy is meaningful”, “There may be barriers to online provision for service users”, “Music therapists feel differently about adopting extra work” and “Music therapy is more significant now than ever”. These six findings depict a variety of challenges and opportunities, experienced by music therapists practicing in adult mental health settings, which may have implications for music therapy practice during the COVID-19 pandemic, practice in general, and in the future in the event of other medical pandemics. With increased mental health challenges in the adult population, music therapy provision in adult mental health care can play an important role.