How can music therapy support men at a specialist treatment unit in a prison setting in Aotearoa New Zealand?
This study aimed to explore how the use of music therapy can support prisoners in a specialist treatment unit at a prison in Aotearoa New Zealand. The research was initially designed using action research methodology to evaluate how I, a music therapy student, can support men at a special treatment unit in a prison setting in Aotearoa New Zealand. Seven weeks into my placement a rapidly escalating response to the Covid-19 global pandemic put my placement on hold indefinitely. In response to the challenges of not being able to attend placement, the research framework was changed to exploratory research. My question evolved into a theoretical exploratory study seeking to find out how music therapy can provide support in prisons. Documentation of music therapy is scarce in the New Zealand context; thus, the exploration was guided by a broad international literature search. Thematic analysis was used to develop themes about the reviewed literature and from reflective data identified in my clinical journal. The findings provide a broad scope of understanding of how music therapy is used in prisons and three main themes were identified in the analysis. These were: the ecologies of music in prisons, practicing self-care, and awareness of theory in developing specific aims and goals. The results show that music can support prison populations in various ways depending on which context takes place; from an musicological viewpoint music facilitates the expression of cultural spheres, whereas from a medical standpoint, therapeutic approaches to music therapy provide effective rehabilitation and treatment for psychological ailments. Ample theoretical, clinical, and cultural preparation should be taken into account by therapists before embarking on any work into the prison environment.