Research & Ethics Update

This month I have chosen to focus on the WFMT Research and Ethics Commission. The Commission on Research and Ethics promotes the integration of research and ethics into the practice of music therapy throughout the world. We envision music therapy as a health service based in sound research practice available to all. The commission promotes dissemination of quality ethnomusicological, historical, qualitative, and quantitative research studies to better inform the practice of the profession. This Commission is chaired by Dr. Claudia Zanini (Brazil) and has 4 committee members: Ms. Maria Teresa del Moral (Spain), Dr. Douglas Keith (USA), Dr. Clare O’Callaghan (Australia), and Ms. Camilla Pfeiffer (Argentina).Earlier this year, the commission revised the research ethics FAQ sheet, and it has recently been translated into Spanish. Please visit the following links to access the full document in both languages (Click here for English and here for Spanish).Posted here are some highlights from that document to consider.What is music therapy research?Research has been defined as “a systematic…inquiry which leads to a discovery or new insight, which, when documented and disseminated, contributes to or modifies existing knowledge of practice” (Bruscia, 1995, p. 21). Thus, Music Therapy research may be defined as a systematic...inquiry about music therapy, which leads to a discovery or new insight...Music therapy researchers work from a number of philosophical perspectives (Edwards, 2012), utilizing a broad range of methodologies, and asking diverse questions on theory, practice with varying populations, and professional issues. Depending on the topic, research may be involve collaborating with other disciplines, and take place within interdisciplinary research teams. Data can be collected from varied sources, including:

  • objective measures, such as physiological responses
  • subjective measures, such as quality of life measures or a client’s statements of her/his experiences
  • therapists’ or other observers' interpretations of sessions
  • therapeutic products (e.g., song lyrics; musical improvisations)
  • other relevant artifacts (e.g., music therapy texts; visual images).

Are there standards for music therapy research?Standards for research in music therapy seek to ensure that the research is conducted ethically and is of high quality. Typically, music therapy research follows local guidelines (i.e., of the facility, agencies, or universities where research participants are recruited) and national guidelines for ethical research, which are outlined by national authorities in the country in which the research is taking place. More information about ethical research in music therapy can be found in WFMT Ethical Practice in Music Therapy. What is a Randomized Controlled Trial (RCT)?Music therapy research has grown and changed over the years. According to Barbara Wheeler (2005), “The methods of music therapy research are generally part of a larger conception of research with particular adaptations to the needs of music and music therapy. Many were developed by researchers in the social sciences, including psychology, education and sociology. Some are used by researchers in the physical sciences such as biology, and chemistry, while others have been developed by music and music psychology researchers”. (p.20) In the last years, the term RCT has become very popular and powerful in today’s health system. In RCT-research (Randomized Controlled Trial), people are randomized to receive one of several clinical interventions. This can be applied to one ore more treatment groups. In music therapy research, a RCT represents one way to contribute important knowledge to our field and evidence regarding music therapy treatment efficacy and effectiveness.Wishing you well on your research endeavours!Warm Regards from Canada,Amy Clements-Cortes, PhD, RP, MT-BC, MTAFellow of the Association for Music and ImageryPresident, WFMT ReferencesBruscia, K. E. (1995). The boundaries of music therapy research. In B. L. Wheeler (Ed.), Music therapy research: Quantitative and qualitative perspectives. p.17-27. Gilsum, NH: Barcelona.Edwards, J. (2012). We need to talk about epistemology: orientations, meaning, and interpretation within music therapy research. Journal of Music Therapy 49(4), 372-394. Retrieved from pdf+htmlWheeler, B. L, Ed. (2005). Music Therapy Research. (2th ed.). Barcelona Publishers