If you are familiar with music therapy, you may know that sessions usually happen one on one with a music therapist or within a context of a group with like peers. But can music therapy be used to explore outside relationships within the therapeutic setting? Steve Cobbett, of the United Kingdom, describes some of his music therapy work in the article, “Context and Relationships: Using the systemic approach with music therapy in work with children, adolescents, and their families.”
Cobbett works with children/adolescents with social, emotional, and behavioral difficulties. He integrates music therapy and psychotherapy into his work, specifically using the systemic approach which he defines as a “form of therapy that emphasizes the relational contexts that people live in (Cobbett, 2017)”. That is, our behaviors come from our relationships of family, community, culture, and how they work.
In this case study article, he describes working with three boys with ADHD and other diagnoses that resulted in chaotic (sometimes aggressive), but creative behaviors. Initially, he allowed them to explore the surrounding space, ask questions, and allow curiosity regarding the therapy to build before he started music therapy work with them. Interestingly, the boys were drawn to live music making/drumming and pretty much ignored the electronic/digital music making that was available in the space. Eventually, the boys were open to drumming improvisation and rap writing, which was often infused with appropriate humor.
Through drumming, piano improvisation, and music role playing, the boys were able to explore different social roles with the therapist. The boys explored their roles within their families, school, and gender roles. They were also able to explore appropriate boundaries through music making and following discussion with the music therapist. Despite initially being resistant, the boys eventually decided to put on a musical comedy performance for their school with the help of the music therapist at the end of their treatment. Remember, that these boys started out with angry and chaotic behaviors, with the need to explore and work out social roles within therapy. What accomplishment they must have felt after their performance!
This article is important, because it gives a very clear picture of music therapy with an adolescent group and what types of therapeutic approaches were successful for this particular group. Stay tuned for a second in detail description of music therapy work with families in future blog posts! For more information, please continue to www.centralohiomusictherapy.com or visit www.musictherapy.org
Jessica S. Fletcher, MM, MT-BC
Corbett, S. (2016). Context and Relationships: Using the systemic approach with music therapy in work with children, adolescents, and their families. . British Journal of Music Therapy, 1-9. doi:10.1177/1359457516662474