Music therapy, spirituality, and well-being

Since the early 1980s, the term spirituality has permeated the discourse on health and well-being, although there has been little consensus on a definition of the term.18 Spirituality differs to the concept of religion and the linked emotional and psychological state of ‘religiosity’, and it encompasses a broader set of meanings.19,20 Moreover, spirituality is a more qualitative concept than religion and ‘religiosity’,21 and is associated primarily with coping in the event of life crises and ‘biographical disruption’.22 Clearly, the study of spirituality requires a wider set of descriptive metaphors and explanatory models that extend beyond the more institutionalized, de-personalized and orthodox concept of religiosity and consider, amongst other things, the ‘…search for meaning and existential purpose in life’ (p.1572).23

From this, we can identify obvious similarities with Magill’s four aspects of spirituality. All four themes are central, although due to connotations with religiosity, we should acknowledge that faith arises less commonly in the literature. In contrast, the search for meaning emerges in the literature on spirituality and health as a recurring leitmotif.18,20,23,24,25,26 Thus, for Tanyi, ‘…spirituality involves an individual’s search for meaning in life, wholeness, peace, individuality and harmony’ (p.502).25

Spirituality is also related to notions such as ‘making the most of life now and Weird personality traits ’ (p.411).18 The issue of finding meaning in life is therefore perceived as crucial:

‘…because the illness itself causes permanent changes in life that force a re-evaluation in any previously assumed meaning’ (p.20).20

Meaning-making provides a notably less sacred notion of spirituality in which people can creatively take control of their circumstances.24 This ‘value-guidance’ approach to spirituality (ibid) takes the meaning to refer to the individual’s adoption of a broader set of value orientations, incorporating art, poetry, music as well as the ideals that people choose to live by. It is perhaps no surprise that in Chiu et al’s summary of the literature on spirituality and health it was discovered that the most common and burgeoning area of substantive study was cancer.18

Another central theme in relation to spirituality was hope. Hope symbolizes a future and personal outcomes that may become increasingly important to the individual, such as ‘…expanding or revitalizing interests, extending the self to others, and altering personal outlook’ (p.595).24 Other key themes are that of spirituality as an ‘energizing force’,25 the importance of relationships and ‘connectedness’,18,25 and transcendence (rising above every day and the mundane). The present research findings are related to these overarching themes to show how spirituality may be better understood in situ.

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