Performing spirituality in music therapy: Towards action, context and the everyday

Tsiris, Giorgos. 2018. Performing spirituality in music therapy: Towards action, context and the everyday. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

Despite various theoretical explorations of spirituality in music therapy, including debates about its perceived threat to music therapy’s development as a legitimate profession, only a relatively small number of empirical studies have been conducted to date. Exploring mostly individual experiences of spirituality, these studies tend to focus on positive aspects of spirituality, such as peak moments.

With no single definition of spirituality, this thesis sets outs to open up a space where diverse, even conflicting, spiritualities are explored. It is based on two complementary studies through which I explore music therapists’ perceptions of spirituality and its (ir)relevance to music therapy (pilot study) as well as the performance of spirituality in everyday music therapy contexts (follow-up study). The pilot study is an international survey of 358 qualified and trainee music therapists whilst the follow-up study is an ethnographically-informed exploration of spirituality within three UK-based music therapy contexts. The survey findings provide an insight into music therapists’ perceptions of spirituality, including its place in their training, practice and professional life. Music therapists’ dilemmas and suggestions for future actions regarding spirituality are also highlighted. Adopting a performative view of spirituality, the ethnographically-informed study offers an exploration of spirituality in-action and in-situ. The findings expand beyond immediate music-making situations, to include broader professional practices, systems and frameworks pertaining to spirituality in and around music therapy. This involves a critical investigation of professional vocabularies, identities, and organisational values and agendas in connection to music therapists’ stances and practices.

The thesis suggests a hybrid pneumatology in music therapy. Characterised by interpretative elasticity, spirituality emerges as a ‘boundary object’; a hybrid construct which affords the co-existence of unfinished spiritualities as well as their multiple and heterogeneous translations. Repositioning spirituality as a vital subject area in music therapy, the thesis draws implications for further developments in the field.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):


music therapy, spirituality, performance, action, context, the everyday, survey, ethnography, boundary object, hybrid pneumatology

Departments, Centres and Research Units:



28 February 2018

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

12 Mar 2018 13:05

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 12:05


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