Are Community Music Therapy Principles Relevant to my Work with Large Groups of Older Adults in a Residential Care Facility? Finding from a Student Action Research Project

Hazel Barrett
MMusTher, BA (Hons), NZ RMTh
Victoria University of Wellington – Te Herenga Waka, New Zealand School of Music, Te Kōkī


Community music therapy; older adults; residential care; community music;
group music therapy


This research focuses on the second-year student placement of my master’s programme, at a residential care home. A significant part of my work there was facilitating large, open groups, and due to my background in community music I was interested in whether community music therapy principles would have relevance in this context. I conducted three action research cycles, and in each I collected my practice notes over approximately six weeks. I used thematic analysis to examine this data, and generated actions from the emerging themes for the next cycle. I found that large group music therapy sessions could provide the opportunity for participants, both staff and residents, to experience a shared social space which enabled moments of connection and promoted inclusion, creativity, self-determination, and expanded identities. This suggested that the groups had therapeutic value for the participants. In this article I discuss differences between my community music and music therapy practice, including the possibilities for individual work and use of music therapy theory. I believe that community music therapy principles were relevant to this work, and in particular that taking an ecological perspective was significant. I recommend further research into community music therapy in residential care settings.

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