Child-Centered Music Therapy Series, Post #1

*Deep Breath*

This is a BIG topic that I have been hesitant to dig into because I want to cover it in depth. However, this is one of my most passionate areas of music therapy that I want to talk about on this blog. This will end up being a series and I hope you find it valuable and useful for your practice.

Most of my influence comes from child-centered play therapy, which was created by Virgina Axline in the late 40’s after the wave of Carl Rogers’ non-directive therapy gained momentum. If you haven’t had time to check out their work, here is a link to Axline’s “Dibs in the Search of Self” and Rogers “Client Centered Therapy”.  These book were life-changing reads for me!

Within child-centered play therapy, the idea is that children have an innate drive within themselves to move towards independence and healing. Given the support of a therapist who can provide an accepting, permissive, and non-judgmental environment, the client will begin to feel valued and accepted of themselves.

Within music therapy, this idea parallels Nordoff-Robbins approaches in that the session is not created beforehand. Instead the session is a time for the therapist to let the child explore their desire and it’s the therapists’ job to accept, mirror, reflect, validate, and support the client through music.

I realize this isn’t feasible in every situation within music therapy environments, but I do believe the core principles are more a way of being with the client. A way of walking alongside a clients therapeutic journey rather than standing in front of the client saying “follow me in this direction”.

In the book called “A Practical Handbook for Building the Play Therapy Relationship”, the authors discuss several objectives that I’d like to share. These objectives are the focus of developing a positive therapeutic relationship.

  • Establishing a safe atmosphere
  • Understanding and accepting the child’s world
  • Encouraging expression of the child’s emotional world
  • Establishing a feeling of permissiveness
  • Facilitating decision-making by the child
  • Providing the child an opportunity to develop self-responsibility and self-control

How can we utilize these objectives within music therapy sessions? How about within structured sessions focusing on communication skills? What about when working with a non-verbal client? It’s a way of being. 

Hang tight for additional posts in this series! I’m excited to finally be rolling them out to you all!

Kate

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