Claire Flower trained as a music therapy at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, qualifying in 1988. She has pursued a varied career since then, as practitioner, educator, and clinical supervisor. Claire has worked with children for many years, both in educational and healthcare settings. Since 2006, she has been employed in the music therapy service at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, developing a particular interest in parental involvement in their child’s music therapy; it is this interest which led her into research.
Claire is currently on the doctoral programme at Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy Centre, London. Her practice-led research, based within the Child Development Service, focuses on understanding the complexities of practice and experiences within the music therapy ‘trio’ of child, parent, and therapist.
In a preliminary qualitative study, Clare investigated one such grouping in detail. Viewings of a recent music therapy session formed the basis for separate interviews with both the parent and therapist. Thematic analysis of both interviews was then undertaken, and key themes articulated. Guided by the timing of pause points created by the therapist and parent at interview, a short section of video material was then selected for microanalysis. The microanalysis revealed the complexity of musical and interpersonal relatedness within the activities of the three.
Drawing together the key themes from the thematic analysis, and the findings from the microanalysis, the study suggested that the ‘trio’ could be understood as a dynamic interplay of person, place, and time. This interplay did not only involve the three individuals, or the potential musical social pairings between them, but also the relationships with family and other professionals who emerged as vital forces in shaping the events and experiences of the trio. Music therapy with child, parent and therapist could be seen as a fluid, permeable network, which began to raise questions as to the extent and nature of this network.
A further qualitative study is now in progress in which Claire is investigating the networks of person, places and time within which music therapy in the NHs Child Development Service takes place. A particular focus of the study is an exploration of expertise within music therapy practice involving parents; it aims to identify and explore the forms of expertise which are demonstrated, and how expertise is shared, or not, across the networks.
Focus groups have been used as the primary means of gathering data. Separate groups have been run for different cohorts of participants: parents whose children are currently receiving music therapy, music therapists within the service, and a cross-disciplinary group of Child Development Service staff. Data collection has now finished and data analysis is underway. Once complete, the focus of activity will be on writing up the study as a whole, integrating the activity and findings of both phases within a complete thesis.
Claire has presented this evolving study widely, including at the World Congress of Music Therapy in Krems, Austria, in July 2014, the 8th Nordic Music Therapy Congress, Oslo, in August 2015, and British Association for Music Therapy Conference, Glasgow, in April 2016. Most recently, Claire presented at the Nordoff-Robbins Plus Conference in London in May 2016, her title being ‘Researching Practice, Practising Research: Exploring Music Therapy with Children, Parents, and Therapists’. A paper arising from the pilot study was published in the journal Psychology of Music in December 2014.
Claire is extremely grateful for the financial support she has received for her research from the Music Therapy Charity, and Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.