“Surprisingly helpful”: An exploration of trainee and registered music therapists’ perspectives on the current role of personal therapy in music therapy training in the United Kingdom





psychotherapy, qualitative survey, thematic analysis


Music therapy training programmes in the United Kingdom are accredited by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). The HCPC requires registered music therapists to have experience and understanding of the value of therapy for developing insight and self-awareness. In practice, this currently translates into a requirement for personal therapy during training – working therapeutically and confidentially with a suitably qualified and registered therapist for a minimum number of hours – although the amount and type of therapy required varies between course providers. The aim of this study was to explore the perceived value and impact of mandatory personal therapy from the perspectives of trainee and HCPC-registered music therapists. Data were collected through a qualitative survey with open-ended questions exploring participants’ personal therapy experiences. Thirty-nine participants were recruited from across the various music therapy training institutions in the UK at the time of the research and from within the pool of registered music therapists. Thematic analysis was used to develop three themes from the data: “personal therapy is costly, but ultimately beneficial”; “personal therapy provides a supportive space separate from training”; and “personal therapy is part of becoming a music therapist.” We conclude with recommendations about how personal therapy can be most usefully incorporated into training programmes based on our interpretation of the participants’ responses.

Author Biographies

Megan Brand, Independent scholar, United Kingdom

Megan Brand graduated from the University of the West of England, Bristol, UK with an MA in Music Therapy in 2018. Since graduating, she has been working as a freelance music therapist in the South West of England and South Wales. Megan currently works with a variety of client groups including looked-after children, older adults living with dementia, and adults and young people experiencing mental health problems. [megbrandmusic@gmail.com]

Victoria Clarke, University of the West of England, UK

Victoria Clarke is an Associate Professor in Qualitative and Critical Psychology at the University of the West of England, Bristol, UK, where she teaches qualitative research methods to psychotherapy students and supervises student research on Music Therapy and Counselling Psychology programmes [Victoria.Clarke@uwe.ac.uk]

Catherine Warner, University of the West of England, UK

Catherine Warner is programme leader for the MA Music Therapy and the MA Therapeutic Music Studies and a Senior Lecturer at the University of the West of England, Bristol, UK. She has been a HCPC registered music therapist for over 25 years and has also worked as a professional cellist and pianist.