Music Therapy in Ireland: An Overview of Music Therapy on Irish Soil
Music plays an important role in Ireland. From traditional Céilí bands and Seanós singing to rebellious folk songs, music has been used to connect, unify and empower the people of Ireland for many years. Therefore, it makes sense that we as music therapists use the music in this country to connect people to themselves and those around them.
Music Therapy (MT) has been implemented in Ireland since the 1980s. The first practicing Music Therapist in Ireland was Catherine O’Leary who received her qualification from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, London in 1978 (O’Leary, 2016). In 1992, a group of creative arts therapists, who also qualified abroad, came together to set up the Irish Association of Creative Arts Therapists (IACAT). The aim of this group was to develop the creative arts therapy professions in Ireland. IACAT is now the accrediting body for Music, Art, Drama and Dance Movement therapists in Ireland. Despite Music Therapy being practiced in Ireland for almost 40 years, it has not yet received statutory recognition. IACAT is actively campaigning for this and the inclusion of creative arts therapies in the Health and Social Care Professionals Act (2005).
The recognition of Music Therapy as an allied health profession is integral to the safety of working music therapists and of those who avail of music therapy.
Recognition will ensure that music therapy services are delivered by a qualified, regulated Music Therapist and will promote the highest professional standards amongst Music Therapists in Ireland.
In 1998, the first and only, training for Music Therapists in Ireland was developed at the University of Limerick. Here, future Music Therapists complete a two year, full time masters to receive their qualification, after which, they can become a professional member of IACAT.
In 2017, Ireland was welcomed as a new member country to the European Music Therapy Confederation. This confederation was founded in 1990 and aims to promote the practice of music therapy in Europe.
Current State of Music Therapy in Ireland
As mentioned above, IACAT are continuously seeking recognition for creative arts therapists from the HSE (Health Service Executive) and are still awaiting statutory recognition.
Currently, IACAT has 341 professional members, 70 of which are Music Therapists.
Professional Music Therapists also utilize a group e-mail system, originally set up in 2000. The aim of this group is to stay connected and to promote and develop music therapy in Ireland. There are currently 106 members within this group.
The most common working areas for creative arts therapists in Ireland are with children and adults living with additional needs, mental health, early intervention and older persons care. According to a survey conducted in 2019, there is “…an almost even split of reported employment status as employed…versus self-employed” (Boyle, 2019) among music therapists, with a slight majority on the side of self-employed.
MT training in Ireland provides an eclectic approach to music therapy; therefore, Music Therapists practicing in Ireland currently represent many schools of MT. These include psychodynamic music therapy, Nordoff-Robbins approach, resource oriented music therapy, community music therapy and neurologic music therapy.
Music Therapy is a growing profession in Ireland and benefits from continued promotion and raising awareness. As mentioned, Ireland has a rich history with music and holds strong traditions within its melodies. In recent years, Ireland is home to a growing eclectic culture, which brings wonderful new music to our shores. Music Therapy has the brilliant ability to connect people through music from around the world.
My hope and that of many music therapists in Ireland is the statutory recognition and development of music therapy as an allied health profession.
O’Leary, C. (2016) “The emergency of music therapy in Ireland: my part in the
story”, IACAT Journal, 4(1), 1- 9.
Boyle, T. (2019) “Music Therapy in Ireland”, IACAT Journal, 6(1), 39 – 54.
Sarah Keating is a qualified music therapist with an MA in Music Therapy from the University of Limerick, Ireland. In 2018, Sarah set up her practice and began operating under Keating Music Therapy. She has experience in a wide variety of settings, with a focus on physical and intellectual disabilities, mental health, rehabilitation care and older persons care. Currently, Sarah works full time as a Music Therapist in Ireland. Sarah is devoted to establishing trusting and attuned therapeutic relationships with service users and is committed to continuously raising awareness of music therapy.