In defence of working with “patients” in music therapy — Marianne Rizkallah

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In defence of working with “patients” in music therapy

Marianne Rizkallah


How music therapists consider people who come for therapy, and how people who come for therapy perceive themselves during sessions, is of paramount importance and central to our work. More than an argument about terminology or semantics, this paper will propose that the term used fundamentally affects how the therapeutic relationship is viewed, during and around music therapy, by both the therapist and the person receiving therapy. It is a commentary in response to a book review (Rizkallah, 2021) that generated a reply (Sundararaj, 2021). This paper will argue that using the word “patient” to describe the person receiving therapy, regardless of clinical presentation, allows for a more honest appraisal of the therapeutic relationship than any other term. It includes discussion of the etymology of the terms commonly used to refer to people coming for therapy and uses existing literature to explore thoughts around terminology and how it relates to power dynamics within sessions.


patient, client, service user, therapeutic relationship, power dynamics


Marianne Rizkallah MA GSMD is Head Music Therapist and Director of North London Music Therapy (NLMT) CIC and the Vice Chair of the British Association for Music Therapy. For NLMT she specialises in working with adolescents and adults with mental health concerns such as stress, anxiety and depression. As a music therapist she has worked with patients aged 1 to 100, with conditions as varied as psychosis, autism, learning disabilities and dementia. Marianne is also a professional singer and vocal coach. []