The attitudes of music therapy students and professionals regarding the emotional valence of improvisations in music therapy

Ehud Bodner, Einat Assa Polansky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


This study examined Israeli therapists' attitudes toward the valence of emotions expressed by clients in music therapy (MT), an issue discussed in-depth during supervision that has never been studied empirically. In the first study, 22 MT students were asked to recall a meaningful therapeutic session, describe the emotions that were part of this session, and rate their respective contribution to the therapeutic process. The prevalence of negative emotions almost doubled that of the positive emotions. In the second study, 21 music therapists (11 students and 10 experienced music therapists) were asked to listen to musical improvisations, expressing different emotions, and were told that the improvisations were played by a different client. After identifying the emotions, participants were asked to rate the chances that the client’s therapy would be meaningful. Sadness was reported by the students as contributing significantly more to a meaningful therapy than happiness. In the third study, 43 clinical psychologists, 22 music therapists, and 28 medical clowns underwent a similar procedure. In general, medical clowns evaluated happiness as the most significant emotion for therapy, while music therapists and clinical psychologists rated sadness as being the most significant emotion. The findings of the three studies which require replication in other countries suggest that Israeli music therapists (in particular students) tend to view negative emotions as contributing more than positive emotions to a meaningful therapy. An integration of recent developments in the field of positive psychology to the field of MT might contribute and advance the work of music therapists and other therapeutic professions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)273-295
Number of pages23
JournalNordic Journal of Music Therapy
Issue number3
Early online date17 Jul 2015
StatePublished - 2 Jul 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 The Grieg Academy Music Therapy Research Centre.


  • attitudes
  • emotions
  • happiness
  • music therapists
  • positive psychology
  • sadness


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