Performative, Arts-Based, or Arts-Informed? Reflections on the Development of Arts-Based Research in Music Therapy

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Arts-based research (ABR) has emerged in music therapy in diverse ways, employing a range of interpretive paradigms and artistic media. It is notable that no consensus exists as to when and where the arts are included in the research process, or which music therapy topics are most suited to arts-based study. This diversity may pose challenges for music therapists who are developing, reading, and evaluating arts-based research. This paper provides an updated review of arts-based research literature in music therapy, along with four questions for researchers who are developing arts-based research. These questions are 1) When should the arts be introduced? 2) Which artistic medium is appropriate? 3) How should the art be understood? and 4) What is the role of the audience? We argue that these questions are key to understanding arts-based research, justifying methods, and evaluating claims arising from arts-based research. Rather than defining arts-based research in music therapy, we suggest that arts-based research should be understood as a flexible research strategy appropriate for exploring the complexities of music therapy practice.

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