‘Sewing together’: An idiographic study of a music therapist’s experiences of a group at a special school for children and young people with severe and complex special educational needs





group music therapy, interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA), learning disability


This research was commissioned by a school in London which provides for children and young people aged 2 to 16 with a wide range of learning difficulties. This single-participant study uses video annotation, video elicitation interview and interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) to explore perceptions of processes in a music therapy group, from the point of view of a music therapist. Two tables of annotations present a description of events in each video clip in a timeline. The IPA interview analysis produced 25 emergent themes, grouped into four superordinate themes (‘Balancing diverse needs’; ‘Spontaneity’; ‘Therapists’ musical stance’; ‘Group dynamics’). Parallels are drawn with other music therapy groups described in the literature and with Foulkes’ group analytic psychotherapy. The study elucidates an approach to group music therapy which provides a space for spontaneous and meaningful interaction, both through music and other modalities.

Author Biographies

Luke Annesley, University of the West of England, UK

Luke Annesley has worked for Oxleas Music Therapy Service since 2008, working with children and young people in a variety of settings. He is a Senior Lecturer in Music Therapy at University of the West of England, and is the host of the BAMT podcast, Music Therapy Conversations. [Luke.Annesley@uwe.ac.uk]

Nicolette O’Neill, Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust, UK

Nicolette O’Neill has been working for over 20 years for Oxleas Foundation Trust Music Therapy service, from where the music therapy work and research project for this article emanated. Nicky leads the team in the school where the research project was based. She has specialised throughout her career in the area of music therapy for children with complex needs. She continues to love this work as well the management part of her job. [Nicolette.oneill@nhs.net]