Music Therapy Program to Support At-Risk Families

This article was written as a report on a three year pilot music therapy program that was started in Australia. The aim of the project was to provide short-term music therapy to families in communities where access to other services may be limited. The music therapy program was named Sing & Grow, and focused on building upon parents’ ability to relate to and respond to their child’s emotional and developmental needs. It specifically targeted families with children ages three and under.

The sessions were led by music therapists, and were structured to include a hello song, action and nursery songs, movement songs and games, instrumental play, quiet music, and a goodbye song. All of these interventions provided opportunities to strengthen parent-child relationships through increasing developmentally appropriate interactions, assisting parents to bond with their children, and increasing the variety of parenting skills by relating to their child through playing together.

The Sing & Grow program benefited participants by engaging children in developmentally stimulating activities while, at the same time, reinforcing to the parents the importance of their active participation in helping their children to meet developmental milestones. The program also emphasized the importance of early attachment and parent-child relationships in the first three years of life. Another benefit of the program was the development of community networks. This allowed the leaders of the program to be in contact with local doctors and other professionals, and to help parents seek the services they needed if any concerns arose.

Data collected during the first three years of this pilot program included parent surveys before and after the program, clinical observations from the session leaders, feedback from collaborating organizations and families, and project administration records. The data indicated that the programs were successful in reaching a variety of client groups, including single parents, young parents, economically disadvantaged, parent or child with a disability, from a family with a history of domestic violence or abuse, referred with parenting or attachment problems, and Indigenous or non-English speaking backgrounds. The results also show that programs were successful in attracting parents to attend sessions.

Reports from parents who completed end-of-program questionnaires also showed high levels of parent satisfaction, a positive perception of the program’s impact on parent-child relationships, and using music activities at home. The music therapists leading the sessions observed that children who attended would participate more often and actively in activities that encouraged cognitive, physical, and social development.

This article shows that music-therapist-led programs for young children can increase the bonding between parents and children as well as introduce families to a wide variety of activities that will help their children reach developmental milestones more easily. There are many music classes for families with young children available, such as Kindermusic and Sprouting Melodies. See which are offered in your community, and try out a class or two.

Elyse Suhay, MT-BC

Abad, V., & Williams, K. E. (2007). Early Intervention Music Therapy: Reporting on a 3-Year Project To Address Needs with At-Risk Families. Music Therapy Perspectives, 25(1), 52-58. doi:10.1093/mtp/25.1.52