An investigation of coping, resilience and self-compassion among conservatoire music students in the United Kingdom

Lam, H. C. F. (2024) An investigation of coping, resilience and self-compassion among conservatoire music students in the United Kingdom. Doctoral thesis, Royal College of Music.


This doctoral thesis investigates the use of coping and development of psychological resilience in musicians. Relevant literature was analysed to identify individual and environmental factors that impact on musicians’ health and wellbeing (Chapters 1 and 2). Two studies are presented to explore musicians’ coping strategies and resilience from both personal and environmental perspectives, aiming to address gaps in research regarding the specific mechanisms through which coping strategies, psychological resilience, and self-compassion interact with each other and impact the overall health and wellbeing of musicians. The first study (Chapters 3 and 4) involves interviews with 16 conservatoire music students from the Royal College of Music. Through semi-structured, individual interviews, these conservatoire music students shared insights into their coping strategies and psychological resilience within the context of music-making. The interviews examined the common challenges faced by conservatoire music students during their learning and performances, as well as how they navigate these challenges. From these interviews, several themes emerged, including the general meanings of coping and resilience for musicians, understanding how musicians cope and develop resilience within their occupational activities, and the roles of institutions and support systems in supporting musicians’ coping strategies and resilience. The findings from the interview study suggest a close relationship between coping and resilience; while coping encompasses the strategies and responses to challenges, resilience reflects the musician’s capacity to overcome adversity. Moreover, the study underscores the significance of coping strategies and psychological resilience, particularly in the context of conservatoire music students’ performance and practice. Importantly, the study reveals that the conservatoire environment significantly influences conservatoire music students’ coping, and access to support services plays a crucial role in promoting positive adaptation. These findings underscore the importance of further research into musicians’ development of coping, resilience, and related aspects in their learning and performance. The second study (Chapters 5, 6, and 7) is an online survey involving 120 conservatoire music students in the United Kingdom. The survey employed questionnaires to measure conservatoire music students’ psychological resilience, coping abilities, and levels of self-compassion, followed by a self-assessment of their health and wellbeing. Additionally, the survey measured conservatoire music students’ interactions with the environment and support. The survey study was divided into three parts: (1) individual factors related to coping and psychological resilience; (2) environmental factors and supporting resources related to coping, resilience, and self-compassion; and (3) connections between individual factors, environmental factors, health, and wellbeing. The findings suggest that coping strategies positively predict the overall level of coping, and positive constructs of self-compassion are also positively associated with the overall level of self-compassion among conservatoire music students. Furthermore, the findings show that coping, resilience, and wellbeing are significantly correlated, and certain coping strategies are more strongly correlated than others in promoting resilience (Chapter 5). Regarding environmental factors, the findings suggest that conservatoire music students’ academic and social self-perceptions are positively related to their overall perception of the educational environment. Nevertheless, coping, resilience, and self-compassion are positively associated with conservatoire music students’ perceptions of their educational environment (Chapter 6). Findings from the final part of the survey study show positive connections between coping, resilience, self-compassion, health, and wellbeing among conservatoire music students. Additionally, academic and social self-perceptions are positively linked to conservatoire music students’ health and wellbeing (Chapter 7). The main findings from the survey study reveal the implications of how coping, psychological resilience, self-compassion, health, wellbeing, and perceptions of the educational environment positively interrelate, informing future research regarding the development of mental skills, institutional support, and health and wellbeing. The findings of this thesis are discussed (Chapter 8) regarding the implications of the research for musicians’ development, particularly how psychological factors such as coping, resilience, self-compassion, and support within the music-making environment inform their health and wellbeing. One of the implications being discussed is an intervention protocol that could be employed and evaluated in future research to enhance musicians’ coping and resilience from a practical perspective. Based on the findings of the interview and survey studies, the protocol is tailored to musicians’ occupational, psychological and physical demands, and the need for relevant psychological and coping skills, considering their occupational challenges.

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