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.

If you would like to read more articles like this, hear the latest news and offers on our Arts Therapies books, why not join our mailing list? We can send information by email or post as you prefer, and please also tell us about your areas of interest so we can send the most relevant information. You can unsubscribe at any time.

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: Defining Music Early Learning Programs (MELPS)

Music Therapy

“Families and Music Early Learning Programs” in Music Therapy with Families: Therapeutic Approaches and Theoretical Perspectives

Music Therapist and Managing Director of Bobbin Babies, Vicky Abad, reflects on how music could support all parents in their everyday parenting and not only those facing complex needs, and talks to us about how, with Professor Margaret S. Barrett, she came to present a working definition of MELP – Music Early Learning Program – in Music Therapy with Families: Therapeutic Approaches and Theoretical Perspectives

Music Early Learning Programs, or MELPs, strengthen parent-child bonds, families and communities.

When I was first approached to write this book chapter I thought there must be a mistake.

My initial response was “I no longer work as a music therapist with families who have complex needs, rather I run a business for families who wish to attend music groups in their community”.

“Yes! That is exactly why we want you to write this chapter in the book” came the reply.

The timing for this chapter was impeccable. My personal journey as a music therapist and my professional journey as a business owner were coalescing in a way that led me into the world of research. But let me explain what I mean. Continue reading

How to utilise rhythm and reflection in both therapeutic and educational settings – Q&A

faulkner-rythmntorecovery-c2wIn our recent release, Rhythm to Recovery, you can discover how to utilise rhythm and reflection in both therapeutic and educational settings to improve well-being. To celebrate the release of Rhythm to Recovery, we caught up with Simon Faulkner to talk all things music therapy and his new book!

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.

Continue reading

Join our mailing list to receive your free copy of our latest Music Therapy books catalogue.

2015 - Music Therapy Catalogue- cover

Sign up to our mailing list to receive a free copy of our latest brochure of new and bestselling Music Therapy titles.

To request a free print copy of the JKP complete catalogue of books on Music Therapy, sign up to our mailing list below. You can also sign up to receive emails by choosing ‘yes’ in the ‘receive emails’ box. Be sure to click any additional areas of interest so we can notify you about exciting new titles you might like. You should receive a copy of the catalogue within three weeks. You can opt out of our mailings at any time.





































Music therapy and dementia care – it’s now time to win friends and influence people

Shibley Rahman completed his PhD in frontotemporal dementia at Cambridge University, commencing a lifelong interest in the timely diagnosis of dementia. In this article he argues for more high quality research into the possible benefits of music therapy for people living with dementia; as well as making the case for the development of dementia care strategies which include the vital insight of people trying to live well with dementia today, so we can improve the experience of care for the many people in future who will receive a diagnosis of dementia.
You can learn about Shibley’s book,
Living Better with Dementia, here

It won’t have escaped you, hopefully, that the five-year English dementia strategy is up for renewal at any time now. The last one ran from 2009 to 2014.

Probably the usual suspects will get to command the composition of the new one. “Dementia Friends” has been a great initiative which has taught at least a million people so far about some of the ‘basics’ about dementia, but this ‘raising awareness’ is only part of a very big story.

In my book Living Better with Dementia: Good Practice and Innovation for the Future, about to be published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers, I argue that it is the people currently trying to live better with dementia who should be the ‘champions’ for the future. I believe strongly they should drive policy, not ‘leading Doctors’ or senior members of big charities.

My reasoning is as follows.

The population at large can be thought of as consisting of many people, represented below as dots. Networks

In a ‘cohesive’ (close) network such as A, members in the network are connected in close proximity. This builds trust and mutual support, discourages opportunistic flow of information, facilitating communication but minimising interpersonal conflicts. A cohesive network might be the hierarchical network of medical professionals.

A ‘sparse’ network (C) is effectively opposite to cohesive networks; but let’s say for the purposes of my example C consists of people with an interest in non-pharmacological interventions in dementia, including unpaid family carers.

In bridging networks, the ‘bridge’ (B) acts between disparate individuals and groups, giving control over the quality and volume of information exchange. I think of politicians such as Debbie Abrahams MP and Tracey Crouch MP, and the All Party Parliamentary Group on dementia at large, as people who can act as the bridges. These people are pivotal for policy formation.

I devoted a whole chapter of my new book to promoting leadership by people aspiring to live better with dementia.

Having all these people involved will improve the thought diversity and relevance of the new strategy for people actually living with dementia

We are currently in the middle Music Therapy Week 2015, dedicated to raising awareness about how music therapy can improve the lives of people with more progressed dementia. It’s no accident I’ve devoted the bulk of one chapter in my book to explain the brain mechanisms behind why music has such a profound effect on people living with dementia.

We, as human beings, all react uniquely to different music – there’s every reason to believe that certain people living with dementia, whether in the community, at home, in residential home, or a hospice, in other words wherever in the “dementia friendly community”, can hugely benefit from the power of music.

According to NHS England;

“Over the next five years and beyond the NHS will increasingly need to dissolve these traditional boundaries. Long term conditions are now a central task of the NHS; caring for these needs requires a partnership with patients over the long term rather than providing single, unconnected ‘episodes’ of care.”

In Rotherham, GPs and community matrons work with advisors who know what voluntary services are available for patients with long term conditions. Apparently, this “social prescribing service” has cut the need for visits to accident and emergency, out-patient appointments and hospital admissions.

Today sees a wide-ranging, open discussion of music therapy and dementia in Portcullis House, in Westminster. Prof Helen Odell-Miller, Professor of Music Therapy, Director of The Music Therapy Research Centre and Head of Therapies at Anglia Ruskin University, presented significant research findings at the meeting.

I feel music is not being given a fair ‘crack of the whip’ in the current policy. The first English strategy,  “Living well with dementia: a national dementia strategy” , was initially launched by the Department of Health, UK in order to improve ‘the quality of services provided to people with dementia . . . [and to] promote a greater understanding of the causes and consequences of dementia’ (Department of Health, 2009, p. 9).

We could have done, I feel, so much more on research into music by now. We could have done much more to increase the number of music therapists in England by now. Maybe some of this is due to ‘parity of esteem’, which has seen mental health play ‘second fiddle’ to physical health.

There are, however, glimmers of hope though, I feel. For example, it was last year reported in the Guardian:

“Overseen by Manchester University, it is part of a 10-week pilot project called Music in Mind, funded by Care UK, which runs 123 residential homes for elderly people. The aim is to find out if classical music can improve communication and interaction and reduce agitation for people in the UK living with dementia – estimated to number just over 800,000 and set to rise rapidly as the population ages.”

Accumulating evidence shows that persons with dementia enjoy music, and their ability to respond to music is potentially preserved even in the late or severe stages of dementia when verbal communication may have ceased.  Musical memory is considered to be partly independent from other memory systems. In Alzheimer’s disease and different types of dementia, musical memory is surprisingly robust, and likewise for brain lesions affecting other kinds of memory.

Given the observed overlap of musical memory regions with areas that are relatively spared in Alzheimer’s disease, recent findings may, actually, explain the surprising preservation of musical memory in this neurodegenerative disease. Jacobsen and colleagues (2015) found a crucial role for the caudal anterior cingulate and the ventral pre-supplementary motor area in the neural encoding of long-known as compared with recently known and unknown.

That’s why I believe we should support the British Association for Music Therapy (BAMT), the professional body for music therapists and a source of information, support and involvement for the general public.  The title music therapist can only be used by those registered with the Health and Care Professions Council. So there is regulatory capture, if not corporate capture.

This year’s campaign by the BAMT focuses on the instrumental role music therapy has to play in supporting people with dementia and those who care for them. Indeed, the current Dementia Strategy acknowledges that music therapy, as well as other arts therapies, ‘may have a useful role in enabling a good-quality social environment and the possibility for self- expression where the individuality of the residents is respected’ (Department of Health, 2009, p. 58).

Leading research has suggested that music therapy can significantly improve and support the mood, alertness and engagement of people with dementia, can reduce the use of medication, as well as helping to manage and reduce agitation, isolation, depression and anxiety, overall supporting a better quality of life. But very recently Petrovsky, Cacchione and George (2015) have found that there is “inconclusive evidence as to whether music interventions are effective in alleviating symptoms of anxiety and depression in older adults with mild dementia due to the poor methodological rigor”. This reinforces my view that service provision will only be markedly improved if we invest in high quality research, as well as the allied health professionals who can offer high quality (and regulated) music therapy as clinical service.

Living Better with DementiaAs I argue in my new book, “Dementia Friends” is great – but we’ve gone way beyond that now. The “Prime Minister Dementia Challenge“, I feel, showed great leadership in prioritising dementia as a social challenge, and the “Prime Minister Challenge on Dementia 2020” follows suit.

Being honest, we haven’t got a good description of what ‘post diagnostic support’ means, and therefore what it precisely looks like, for dementia. But one thing that is very clear to me that we need to invest in the infrastructure, including research and service provision, to implement living better with dementia as a reality in England. But I remain hopeful that my colleagues in the music therapy world will be able to win friends and influence the right people.

Find out more about Shibley’s book, Living Better with Dementia, read reviews or order your copy here.

Thoughts behind ‘The Music of Being’

Levinge_Music-of-Being_978-1-84905-576-5_colourjpg-printIn The Music of Being, Alison Levinge explains the approaches of key child development theorists and explores how they apply to and inform the practice of music therapy. In this article, she discusses the inspiration behind writing this unique book and how she feels Winnicott’s theories resonate with the central aspects of music therapy.

We only have to observe a mother with her baby to realize that we are deeply musical beings. Training as a musician, combined with an understanding of human development, has led me to consider the significance of this medium and in particular, its value as a therapeutic tool.

No matter what our musical preferences may be, whatever our age, where we live or more significantly, in what ways we may find life difficult, music can enable us to connect more deeply to who we really are. And this can happen even when we are yet to be born!

Our early experiences are impressed upon not only our physical being but also upon our cognitive and psychological states of mind. But what is it like to be a baby? How do we let people know what we are feeling? How do we ask for what we need when we do not have words? Above all, what is it that we require in order to help us along the journey of life in a healthy way? Through helping children and adults who have difficulties, I discovered the value of music and its remarkable ability to engage a child or adult in a relationship. I discovered music, in fact, is a universal language.

In the world of words, there are many who have studied early development. Donald Winnicott, a pediatrician and psychoanalyst, is one who dedicated his life to the study of babies with their mothers and it can be said, was an early prime mover in the field. My book evolved through interweaving some of Winnicott’s ideas with my experiences as a therapist, combined with my understanding of a musical relationship. Music can allow us to express ourselves in so many ways that words may not.

 

Alison Levinge, PHD, LGSM(MT), Cert.Ed., is a music therapy practitioner and researcher. She specializes in music therapy with children experiencing early developmental difficulties and issues relating to bereavement. She teaches and lectures internationally and is based in Bristol, UK. Read more on her book The Music of Being or order your copy here.