Relational needs in music therapy with trauma victims: The perspective of music therapists

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Introduction: Many studies have examined relational needs (RNs) of trauma victims in psychotherapy. However, this topic has received little attention in music therapy research. The current study is the first to focus on what music therapists working with trauma victims perceive as their clients’ main RNs and how those RNs are musically addressed to enhance the therapeutic process. Method: This study used a constructivist grounded theory approach. Analysis of semi-structured interviews with 41 experienced music therapists working with trauma victims was conducted to identify themes in their perceptions of the main RNs of clients and how they address them musically. Results: Analysis of the interviews revealed seven RNs of trauma victims, which according to the music therapists, were addressed during therapy: need for recognition, acceptance, emotional witnessing, emotional responsiveness, safety, trust, and the need for someone to reach out. Discussion: Several significant concepts emerged in the process of addressing RNs of trauma victims. Musical validation highlights the ability of music to validate feelings aroused by traumatic memories and the clients’ sense of presence and being. Emotional witnessing through music stresses the important holding role of music and its ability to organize traumatic experiences as meaningful and coherent narratives. Musical witnessing as a self-object is a process whereby the client becomes both the participant and observer in a two-part process of expression and reflection. Finally, attuned musical involvement is a process in which the therapist becomes musically attuned with the client, thus strengthening therapist-client relationship and facilitating the therapeutic process.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)240-254
Number of pages15
JournalNordic Journal of Music Therapy
Issue number3
StatePublished - 26 May 2020


  • Trauma victims
  • grounded theory approach
  • music therapy
  • qualitative research
  • relational needs

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Complementary and alternative medicine
  • Phychiatric Mental Health


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