Academic journal article Australian Journal of Music Therapy

The Influence of Religion and Spirituality on Clinical Practice Amongst Registered Music Therapists in Australia

Academic journal article Australian Journal of Music Therapy

The Influence of Religion and Spirituality on Clinical Practice Amongst Registered Music Therapists in Australia

Article excerpt


Religion and spirituality in healthcare

Over the past 15 years there has been a rise in interest surrounding spirituality and religion in healthcare and clinical settings (Connelly & Light, 2003; Kidwell, 2014; Sulmasy, 2009; Tanyi, 2002). Researchers and practitioners have begun to appreciate the spiritual aspects of coping with illness, moving towards a more holistic approach and recognising patients as "living unities with medical, moral, spiritual, and psychological concerns" (Cohen, Wheeler, Scott, and The Anglican Working Group in Bioethics, 2001, p. 30). Patients have indicated spirituality as an important factor contributing to quality of care (McCord et al., 2004), and it is now considered an ethical obligation for healthcare professionals to address the spiritual concerns of patients, with this information being obtained during routine clinical assessments (Astrow, Puchalski & Sulmasy, 2001; Post, Puchalski & Larson, 2000; Sulmalsy, 2009; Tanyi, 2002).

Clinicians also indicated the need to acknowledge and understand their own spirituality and biases, in order to readily assist patients and provide general spiritual care if necessary (Astrow et al., 2001; Connelly & Light, 2003; Tanyi, 2002). Astrow et al. (2001) highlighted the importance of healthcare professionals examining the sources of meaning and value in their work, stating that "healthcare professionals may find it helpful to grapple with these (spiritual) issues in their own lives, if for no other reason than for the sake of their patients, whose struggles with these spiritual questions are central to the nature of illness and healing" (Astrow et al., 2001, p. 286). This changing attitude towards spirituality in healthcare is seen in the music therapy profession, with Forinash (2009) identifying that music therapists are increasingly open to discussing their spirituality and how it may influence practice.

Religion and spirituality in music therapy

Spiritual qualities are recognised as heightened during interventions that involve the arts, such as poetry, visual arts, and music (Connelly & Light, 2003), and music remains an essential part of worship practices in various religious traditions (Lipe, 2002). In regards to healthcare, Cook & Silverman (2013) suggested music therapists as being uniquely equipped to address spiritual wellbeing using non-verbal and non-threatening techniques. The discourse surrounding an inextricable link between music, religion and spirituality therefore requires examination within music therapy practice prior to investigating any influence of religion and spirituality on the music therapist and their clinical work.

The majority of literature on spirituality and religion in music therapy has been written in regards to end-of-life care, a time when spiritual elements of experience assist most in rising above suffering, and allow one to find purpose, hope and meaning (Aldridge, 2003). Aldridge (2003) therefore argues that integrity and hope can be maintained through music therapy, as the creative acts allow for transcendence to occur; transcendence being when one 'goes beyond' a current awareness to another level of understanding through the process of questioning and the search for meaning (Aldridge, 1995).

Like Aldridge, Magill (2006) argued that music allows for transcendence, the promotion of faith and hope, the sense of meaning and purpose, and fostering connectedness. Magill identified four recurring spiritual themes in music therapy - relationship, remembrance, prayer, and peace. She proposed that it was through music's ability to evoke memory and enhance life review that patients had an opportunity to gain perspective of inner values and achievements in life, and allowed music to promote connectedness through fostering meaningful interaction between patients and their loved ones (Magill, 2006).

Salmon (2001) identified music therapy in palliative care as psychospiritual, with music therapy able to facilitate "quick movement beyond ordinary awareness, where disease is prominent, into the realm of spirit and psyche" (Salmon, 2001, p. …

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