In most cultures throughout time, music has had a role in healing rituals, at times of dying, death and loss and has been used as a means of communication. In Victorian London, hospitals engaged musicians to play for patients to promote well-being and recovery. This was found to be beneficial for raising morale and promoting recovery.
But it was in the 1940’s at war-veteran’s hospitals in the United States that a more organised approach to delivery of music-based interventions was developed. In the United States, the first full-time training was offered by the University of Kansas 1946 and this led to the establishment of further trainings, pioneering work, research and publications. In the United Kingdom Juliette Alvin, Paul Nordoff and Clive Robbins were among some of the key pioneers in the 1950’s and the first training was established at London’s Guildhall in 1968.
Throughout the 1970’s further training programmes emerged worldwide and music therapist began to develop practice and research. In 1982 music therapy was recognised by the NHS as an effective form of treatment and this was followed by state registration in 1996. A Master’s clinical training programme was established at the University of Limerick in 1998 and The Music & Health Research Group was established in 2009. This international collaboration provides a forum to promote and share research and knowledge about music and health. Music therapists in Ireland are now employed by the HSE, charitable organisations, the VEC, private healthcare providers, the Department of Education and social services.
Music Therapy has a growing evidence base and is now an integral part of health, education and social care systems in many countries and is recognised as a core therapeutic option within many statutory services. Music therapists in Ireland are still awaiting statutory recognition.