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Global Perspectives on Music Therapy

by Various Writers

While there is an exciting amount of research on music therapy happening in Canada right now, it is also worthwhile to consider what is happening in other parts of the world in this growing field. Though development of music therapy is quite widespread, there are a few countries that are currently music therapy ‘hotspots’. The United Kingdom, Australia, the United States and Canada are some of the more commonly known music therapy centres of the world, however there are a few more countries that are up-and-coming in the world of music therapy. Brazil, Japan and Argentina all have quite high numbers of registered music therapists compared to other countries and are publishing a lot of fascinating research on music therapy. This research studies the impact of music therapy in new populations and settings such as premature babies, children with neurodevelopmental disorders, adults in critical care, and many more.
A study done in Brazil explored the effects of music therapy on the relationship between a mother and her premature baby in intensive care and its effect on their wellbeing. [http://www.wfmt.info/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/Fact-Page_Brazil-2013.pdf] Researchers demonstrated that music therapy had a relaxing effect on both the mother and child and helped the mother to feel more confident in her ability to care for her child. Music helped to truly calm down the baby which is very important for the delicate setting of an intensive care unit. This is a relatively unexplored area of music therapy and is an interesting avenue for future research.
Japan is home to about 3000 registered music therapists and is also currently engaging in exciting research. Japan hosted the 2017 World

Federation of Music Therapy (WFMT) Conference, where music therapists from around the world gathered to discuss and share their knowledge of music therapy practices. Additionally, a recent Japanese study identified positive benefits of music therapy programs on children with neurodevelopmental disorders. [http://www.davidpublisher.org/Public/uploads/Contribute/5a572f442961c.pdf]

It is also important to know the areas of the world that are making significant strides in the music therapy field, even if music therapy is still relatively new to that country. India is an example of one of these countries that is in the process of developing its music therapy industry. An interesting study indicated that the rich musical heritage of India has a lot to offer for modern psychiatry. [https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4462795/] The researchers describe how music has the ability to ‘cleanse an individual from within’ and that it may bring new meaning to life. As the industry grows in India, research will be able to provide interesting information about how culture plays a role in music’s healing ability.
Research on music therapy done in countries that are quite advanced in the field (like the United Kingdom, Australia, the United States and Canada) is certainly valuable and is home to many of the most important studies and reviews upon which we base music therapist best practices. These studies also have the advantage of having comparable population characteristics to our population in Canada so the research is quite applicable. However, there is also great value in staying up to date with music therapy research in countries all over the world. Brazil, Japan and Argentina are examples of some lesser known music therapy research hubs and have much to offer to the rest of the world. Countries like India that are in the process of developing music therapy programs are also of great importance. As the diversity of countries using music therapy increases, music therapy research will continue to expand in new directions.
Learning about the different music therapy centres around the world is important because it allows us to keep up to date on the latest research in the field. By collaborating with music therapy centres across the world, we can share knowledge and continue to advance the field of music and healthcare. We also can develop standards of practice and training that add consistency to the profession of music therapy and help to better understand the mechanisms by which music plays a role in health. Maintaining a global perspective when learning about the latest research in music therapy is therefore a great strategy for improving practices at home in Canada.

Jane Luft is  a third year Bachelor of Health Sciences student at McMaster University. She wrote this blog while completing HTH SCI 3H03 at the Room 217 Foundation.