“There has probably never been a more important time to be a music therapist”: Exploring how three music therapy practitioners working in adult mental health settings in the UK experienced the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic


  • George Chandler Hive Music Therapy; NHS Tayside, UK
  • Emma Maclean Queen Margaret University; NHS Lothian, UK




music therapy, adult mental health, COVID-19, pandemic, interpretative phenomenological analysis


The COVID-19 pandemic has had ramifications the world over, affecting many aspects of life, including mental health and music therapy practices. Due to the recency of COVID-19, there have been few studies exploring its influence on music therapy practice. This study aimed to explore the experiences of three music therapists based in the UK working in adult mental health settings during this period, 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 study, underpinning the method. Three music therapists participated in semi-structured interviews. Through data analysis, six common themes were identified: “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”, “Feelings differ between music therapists about adopting extra work” and “Music therapy is more relevant now than ever”. These themes depict various challenges and opportunities experienced by music therapists, which may have implications for music therapy practice during this pandemic, practice in general, and in the event of future pandemics. With increased mental health challenges in the adult population, music therapy provision in adult mental health settings can play a crucial role.

Author Biographies

George Chandler, Hive Music Therapy; NHS Tayside, UK

George Chandler is a music therapist practising within inpatient adult mental health for the NHS. Passionate about social and health justice, he recently co-founded Hive Music Therapy – an Edinburgh based not-for-profit community organisation. [george@hivemusictherapy.com]

Emma Maclean, Queen Margaret University; NHS Lothian, UK

Emma Maclean is a lecturer in the arts therapies (music), community arts therapies team lead and musician. Research interests include personalising measures, adult mental health, autism, context, collaborative practice, and co-production. [EMaclean@qmu.ac.uk]