Art Therapy in Private Practice: Editing a Book as Research

Art Therapy Private PracticeThis blog is based on a speech delivered by author James D. West at the launch of the book Art Therapy in Private Practice on the 7th October 2017 at London Art Therapy Centre.

I have learnt a lot through the researching process of editing this book but the most important thing I have learnt has been to understand the centrality of storytelling in our practices. Telling the story, and trying to get it right!

In exploring the question ‘What Art Therapy in Private Practice is?’ we have told stories and spoken of the larger narratives that inform our work to reveal some of the peculiarities and virtues of our world.

As I was looking back at my emails I was surprised to discover this project began four years ago in late 2013 when Gary Nash and I formed the initial proposal for the book with some of the authors here, but at the old site of London Art Therapy Centre in Archway.  It was two years later that we found a publisher and began to write in earnest. We had regular authors’ meetings and developed the Mind Map to help us to focus on the broad themes that we discovered to be the central concerns of our practices.

This ongoing dialogue helped us to set each chapter in the broader context of these concerns more consistently. The book became a collaborative research document as the authors drew out the central themes that formed and reformed the Mind Map which, like a sort of conceptual squid, kept moving around its tentacles.

art therapy private practice

The Mind Map

The book also reflects the work of the British Association of Art Therapist’s Private Practice Special Interest Group (BAAT PPSIG), set up by Gary Nash and Amanda Wright in 2008 and which I currently coordinate. It continues to offer a network for art therapy private practitioners across the UK.

BAAT Council’s support and sponsorship of the Special Interest Group (SIG) is represented in the book. The BAAT ‘Core Skills and Practice Standards in Private Work’ appears in the Appendices and BAAT also provided background support, making available the research officer to answer some of our pressing research questions, and also in offering us anonymised peer review through the Dual Experience Group.

In the Appendices you can also see a copy of the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy Practice Research Network’s (UKCP PRN) ‘Moments of Meeting’ questionnaire as evidence of broader professional alliances.

In the book we also reflected on the learning that had occurred in the SIG meetings held in Sheffield, Manchester, and Wales over the last six years.

What gradually became very clear is that different practices in different contexts evolve different ways of knowing. In the book I have called this contextual epistemology.  We certainly didn’t always agree in the author’s group and I now see these tensions as a vital signs of the activity of real learning.  The overarching process however showed how a group of professionals, and their clients, can usefully work together to create representative stories from sometimes very different contexts, revealing both their shared and divergent ideas, yet slowly building a rich and lively picture of what we do.

Within art therapy in the UK there has been considerable suspicion about the standards and objectives of art therapy in private practice. We aimed to address these issues directly.  Consequently I believe we have gone a considerable way to create a fuller, and fairer, picture of our practice in this area.

Returning once more to stories… Now that we have begun to represent where we are and how we got here, we can look forward and ask ‘What will become of art therapy in private practice?’ and you will see from the book that we have better reasons, than we initially thought, to be optimistic.

I am now busily trying to ease the passage of the book to its readers and this has become the next exciting episode!  My hope is that all the sincere and heartfelt work that has gone into these chapters will shine through and be recognised, appreciated, enjoyed and used by its readers, providing a fresh and inspiring perspective at this crucial and testing time.

James D. West 3.10.17

 

James D. West is an art therapist in private practice. He is a peer reviewer for the International Journal of Art Therapy and coordinator of the BAAT Private Practice Special Interest Group.

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The Use of Play in Therapy

playDr Fiona Zandt has written the below article on the importance of play in therapy. Dr Fiona Zandt and Dr Suzanne Barrett, authors of Creative Ways to Help Children Manage BIG Feelings, are clinical psychologists who currently work in successful private practices in Melbourne. They each have over 15 years’ experience working with children and families. 

Connecting families with wool – Why play is so important when working therapeutically with children

A therapist recently described using an activity from our book that involves using wool to connect family members to make visible the ways in which their feelings and actions impact upon each other. Following the session the child who was being brought to therapy articulated some of what she had learnt to her Mum. She said that she now knew that if she died, everyone would be really sad, and that not everything was her fault. Her comments reflected some key messages that the therapist wanted to convey – namely that she was part of a family who cared about her and were all being affected by the difficulties they were experiencing. Blame was removed and the responsibility for change was shared, laying the foundation for the therapist to work effectively with both the parents and the child.

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The musical nature of human communication

musical-nature-human-communicationRhythm of Relating

by Stuart Daniel

“A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away (it was the nineties in Edinburgh) I enjoyed getting painted red and drumming like wild-fire with a group of people dedicated to festival and having serious amounts of fun. The festival nights we drummed were a culmination of many hours spent in connection through shared rhythm. There’s a collective space we would enter, a space known to any rhythm musician, where time goes strange, the group hums with a new electricity and unity glows.”

 

Sometime last year, as a play therapist, I was working with an eleven year-old boy. We had been hanging out for four sessions. The boy had a lot to be angry about and, up until this point our connection had been defined by me (almost as a by-stander) attempting to help him feel safe and contained as he expressed this angry momentum. I remember feeling disconnected. Not obviously, but somewhere in a quiet place inside where the chance for melancholic sadness has a chance to grow. In this particular session, session five, the boy had given our punch-bag a name and was beating it with hands and then foam swords. I stuck with him, joining in, empathising with body, gesture, a few words. After a while the energy of his angry impetus faded a little and he more casually struck with the swords. I had some insider information here! I knew the boy was learning, and loved, to drum. I started playing an off-beat to his strikes, and then switched things around a little. He matched perfectly and, after a few iterations, developed too. We played in-sync like this for a while until the energy of the room changed colour. The boy became quiet, lay down on the fallen punch-bag, and moved on to a series of mother-baby play scenes of a fresh, gentle, powerful quality completely different from before. I remember being delighted, moved, and consciously thinking, “has he been reading our book?”.  Continue reading

How can music therapy help children with special needs? Read an extract from Rhythms of Relating in Children’s Therapies

music-therapy-children-special-needsHow can rhythm and musicality help therapists be in sync with children with special needs who find communication and depth challenging?

What is rhythm for these children? And for their therapists?

In this extract from Rhythms of Relating in Children’s TherapiesFrom Cocoon to Butterfly: Music Therapy with an adopted girl, Dr Cochavit Elefant takes us into her two and a half years journey of music therapy with little Noa, showing us how through musical and verbal interplay they could go from distance to closeness and from chaos to self-control.

Click here to read the extract

“Noa was two and a half years old when I first met her: a beautiful, lively girl with long dark hair and wide open brown eyes. She was brought to music therapy by her adopted mother with the complaint that Noa was hitting, biting and pushing children at her nursery school.” continue reading

In Rhythms of Relating in Children’s Therapies, Stuart Daniel and Colwyn Trevarthen invite each contributor to have fun exploring their own interpretation of this title and to share their particular ways to phase in-sync with vulnerable children and create rhythms of connection.

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The others in music therapy practice

A well-trodden territory in need of a map by John Strange

music therapy practiceYou can learn about music therapy from books, journals, magazine or newspaper articles, TV or radio programmes, websites or blogs. These sources offer plenty of information, both practical and theoretical, about music therapy clients – their problems, what happens in music therapy and how it helps – and about the music therapist herself – what she does and why. There seems to be much less written and said about various others who may also be in the therapy room, despite the fact that their contribution is often crucial to the effectiveness of the therapy. It was this imbalance in the available information about what actually goes on in music therapy which I and my co-editors Professor Helen Odell-Miller and Eleanor Richards set out to correct in our newly published compilation, Collaboration and Assistance in Music Therapy Practice: Roles, Relationships, Challenges.

Although many music therapy approaches draw on theories and practices from the field of psychodynamic therapy, it is relatively uncommon to find in music therapy the classic psychoanalytic model of therapist and patient sharing an exclusive private space. The therapy space must be safely contained by therapeutic ‘boundaries’, but the exclusion of others is seldom either practical or desirable. Nurses, care workers, escorts, teaching assistants, family members may for varying reasons need to be present, and their presence creates not only challenges but opportunities which the therapist would be foolish to ignore. Continue reading

Music Therapy with Families – Q & A

jacobsen-music-therapy-for-families-c2w

In our recent release, Music Therapy with Families, international music therapists describe and discuss models of working with families in different clinical areas, from those with family members with dementia or autism, to those in palliative care, psychiatric or paediatric hospital settings. To celebrate the release of Music Therapy with Families, we caught up with Stine Lindhal Jacobsen and Grace Thompson to talk about all things music therapy and their new book!

 

What motivated you to write Music Therapy with Families?

Grace: Back in 2012 I attended the Nordic Congress of Music Therapy in Finland.  There was a round-table presentation where music therapists from different countries shared their approaches to working with families.  It was really exciting to hear about the diverse approaches each music therapist took in their work, and also the variety of populations music therapists were working with.  Many were working with young children, but others were working with families with adolescent children or families where adult children were supporting older parents.  The following year I met my future co-editor Stine Lindahl Jacobsen at the European Music Therapy Congress in Oslo, and soon after she invited me to write a chapter for this book.  I was so excited about the idea, that I enthusiastically offered to help Stine with the editing and she agreed – that was the start of our special connection across opposite sides of the world!

Stine: Ever since I started working with families in 2005 I wanted to develop a theoretically anchored music therapy approach focused on the complex dynamics of families. I kept looking for these in the literature to be inspired and learn from others but only found a few. The idea about the book has long been in my mind and after the foundation of an international network of working with families within music therapy I was really motivated to follow up on the book. I was utterly grateful for Grace Thompson to offer her assistance as co-editor as the job isn’t easily done – and I happily accepted. Our collaboration was pure pleasure – it was really a sensation of sharing the same vision and goal.

 

What do you think it is about music that has the potential to be therapeutic?

Grace: This is a great question, and one that music therapists are asked a lot!  There are different perspectives that you can take when thinking about how music can be therapeutic.  Some people theorise that music making in communities has always been a way for people to socially bond together.  Other academics highlight how music stimulates many parts of the brain at once, making music participation a bit like a full brain work-out! In my work, I align with theories from developmental psychology which highlight how musical play and interactions are part of the earliest forms of social interaction.  Before we could even speak, our caregivers used musical forms to attune to us and try to engage with us.  For children with disabilities who might have various developmental challenges, music therapists create opportunities for musical interplay in order to provide another avenue for social and communication development.  For some children, interacting within music making is more motivating and enjoyable and so they persist with the interaction for longer.  Music making therefore provides a really powerful opportunity to support and promote developmental outcomes. Each author in our book has a different theoretical perspective which they explain in depth in their chapter, so the reader can gain a very broad understanding of how and why music therapy makes an important contribution to people’s lives.

Stine: Big question – and important. For me it is about how music motivates us and draws us in. When you work with people in music you get a sense of them very quickly and they get a sense of you too! There is so much information in musical interaction which guides the music therapist but also the people you work with. For me the musical interaction is genuine and there is an important authentic meeting. You cannot lie in the music. The music can help you contain difficult emotions and aid you to try on new expressions and roles. Using music gives you endless opportunities to flexibly, respectfully and adjustably meet the need of many different clients as the book also illustrates with all its different therapists and clients.

 

It is mentioned in the book that music therapy is gaining popularity as a therapeutic activity. Why do you think this is so?

Grace: Well, in my work as a music therapist with children on the Autism Spectrum, many families comment that music therapy doesn’t feel like therapy.  Instead, they say how much they enjoy the sessions as a parent, and how their child really looks forward to coming.  I think that families really appreciate being able to share a mutually enjoyable experience with their child.  When they see their child playing the instruments, singing and moving to the music, they can also see their child’s strengths.  As a music therapist, I love being able to uncover what the child can do well, and using that as the basis to support further development.

Stine: I also think music therapy is gaining popularity partly because research is growing and building an argument for its use, but also because we as academics are getting better at disseminating the positive effects and complex processes to other disciplines and to the general population.

 

What, in your opinion, is the most challenging aspect of working with families (as opposed to individuals) in music therapy? What is the most rewarding aspect?

Grace: I have worked as a music therapist with families who have young children with disabilities since around 2000. I have always experienced how quickly the children get to know me and how much fun we have together when we are playing music.  But of course, I will only work with the children for a short time in their lives.  It is very rewarding to support parents to join in with the musical play so that they can also experience this sense of fun and connection that can even deepen their parent-child relationship.  However, some parents can be a bit hesitant to join in with the musical play. Our Western society tends to portray music as a specialist activity where you have to be ‘talented’ to make music or sing.  So one of the challenges of the work is encouraging parents to have a go, and sing along even if they don’t feel they are very musical.  I also encourage parents to keep using the songs and musical activities in the home without me, so that they can continue to provide rich developmental opportunities for their child, as well as having a new way to have fun together and strengthen relationship.

Stine: It can be very challenging to form healthy working alliances when working with families with emotionally neglected children. The aim is to make the family work better together and have no need of therapy. There is always a risk that as a therapist you might take over, or overshadow the parents, or bond more with one family member than another. However, the challenge and hard work is worth every second when you get to experience the empowerment of parents and children through music – when you get to see families grow closer, bond stronger and interact better.

 

What are you hoping readers take away from the book?

Grace: I hope our community will really understand what music therapy has to offer people with various disabilities and health challenges.  I would love to see families including more music making in their daily lives, sharing joyful moments together with music, and supporting their children and loved ones to be the best they can be. I also hope that music therapists and music therapy students will be inspired by the different case examples and feel more confident to work with families in music therapy.

Stine: I hope music therapists in all forms will find inspiration and knowledge about working with families in music therapy. Interdisciplinary colleagues working with or interested in working with families might also get inspired or get to understand the work of their own colleagues. The book can be relevant to anyone interested in how music can connect to the lives of various families and their special needs, resources and challenges.

 

To buy the book or find out more about it please visit here.

Sign up for the Autism Movement Therapy® April 2016 UK workshops

LARA-Bowers_Autism-Movement_978-1-84905-728-8_colourjpg-printFounder of Autism Movement Therapy® Inc. Joanne Lara will be in the UK this April to run AMT® certification workshops that will be open to ALL. With no dance experience required to participate the author of Autism Movement Therapy® Method: Waking up the Brain! will guide attendees through this unique program that outlines the functions of the brain specifically pertinent to individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder and shows how music and independent movement can help strengthen the body and brain connection. This practical and positive programme will give all comers the techniques needed to use AMT® effectively in a range of environments and will provide all who complete the course with a certificate.

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MOON BALLOON JOURNEYS

Moon BalloonAuthor Joan Drescher, A Journey in the Moon Balloon: When Images Speak Louder than Words, shares highlights from her home in Hingham, Massachussets after a wonderful trip to the 2015 International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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