From the practitioner's perspective and experience: examining the role of music therapy as a component of treatment for high-risk offenders with complex needs

Louise Sicard

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


Over the last 50 years, offender treatment has developed significantly, both ideologically and in practice. The majority of contemporary offender treatment focuses on rehabilitation, where an offender’s risk and needs are assessed and addressed by treatment that is often cognitive-behavioural focused. This thesis examines the treatment for high-risk offenders (HROs), concentrating on violent and sex offenders, as these treatment programs are amongst the most commonly delivered treatment programs throughout the Western world. Additionally, this research focuses on examining the treatment for HROs with complex needs, which refers to a person who is managing several issues, such as physical illness, mental health issues and addiction disorders. Through exploring the contemporary treatment of HROs with complex needs, this thesis examines the role music therapy has as a component of treatment for this offending population. As such, this thesis makes a unique contribution to the existing literature, as music therapy in a forensic setting is under-researched.

The empirical research underpinning this thesis is of a qualitative nature involving 38 in-depth interviews with music therapists (MTs) and treatment facilitators (TFs) who deliver treatment to HROs. This research offers insight regarding the contemporary practice of music therapy and examines its role as a component of treatment for HRO with complex needs. Moreover, this thesis works to model the theoretical formulations from the reviewed literature and examine them in relation to the empirical findings. The findings demonstrate that music therapy can support the core components of HRO treatment, as well as address several of the treatment limitations that were identified by the TFs who were interviewed. Significantly, the empirical findings of this thesis present that despite the lack of research, music therapy is being used as a component of treatment for high-risk offender treatment and has demonstrated great potential in this setting. However, the findings evidence that the limited awareness and research of music therapy within a forensic setting results in dismissive attitudes of non-traditional therapies, which has negatively impacted music therapy’s development and implementation in this setting.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Charles Sturt University
  • Birch, Philip, Principal Supervisor
Place of PublicationAustralia
Publication statusPublished - 2019


Dive into the research topics of 'From the practitioner's perspective and experience: examining the role of music therapy as a component of treatment for high-risk offenders with complex needs'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this