(I’ll do my best to keep it interesting!)

Tracking is one of biggest aspects that I try to keep in the forefront of my mind when using play therapy techniques in music therapy. My goal is to be sort of a “narrator” and reflect the content of what the client is doing with short, age-appropriate phrases. This in turn provides the client with knowledge that the therapist is interested in the child’s play and provides unconditional positive regard as the therapist is accepting the play of the child.

For example, Johnny is moving his maracas around the tambourine and saying “vroom, vroom”. Tracking could sound like this (in order of assumption):

  • “You want to move those around and around.”
  • “You’re moving those maracas around the tambourine”
  • “You’re driving those trucks around the obstacle!”

This example shows how tracking can be dangerous. When engaging children with imaginative play, we don’t want to assume that an object is something. As a child continues to engage in this play and we gather more evidence, we may after a few minutes understand that the maraca is in fact, a truck in Johnny’s play. But we want to make sure to not assume that in the beginning.

Remember, respond to the significant communication that a child is showing you. That may be verbal or non-verbal. Sometimes it might be hard to decide to reflect what the child is doing or what they are saying. Use your judgement to determine which content seems more important to the child. 


This theory is so easily implemented into music therapy because it really is another mode of “playing”. Many times we are working with non-verbal children, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t taking in what we are reflecting. They also need to know the therapist cares about their unique play and has unconditional positive regard. This might look like the following:

Scenario A: Sarah picks up a harmonica from the choices of instruments you have laid out. She looks at it and begins to tap it on the table, saying “This is my bat and I am going to wreck this table!” You could say “You want to break table with that bat you’re using!” This is a great example of important content versus less important content. The child is trying to tell you something with their “pretend” bat! If it’s not musical in the moment, that’s okay. This child feels comfortable enough with you to share something important, so leave the space for the child to be heard.

Scenario B: Your client, Anjani is very over-stimulated today when you arrive and she is jumping up and down while flapping her hands. You begin to sing the hello song, while matching her pace, and you leave space to integrate a new B section that says something like, “You are jumping up and down, up and down, so fast today! You’re jumping up and down, up and down, because that’s how your body wants to play!”

Scenario C: Your client, Andy, is playing with you during a structured intervention on the gathering drum. They begin to play loudly on the drum, stop, and look at you. You respond with, “You wanted to play loud and hard on the drum”. Andy smiles, and again plays loudly on the drum, stops, and looks at you. You respond, “You wanted to play and hard again, and then you looked at me to see what I would do!”

When tracking, you are reflecting content. Practice this in your sessions and when you move on to reflecting emotions, it will come so much smoother. Remember to look out for what is the important content the child is trying to share with you!

Also, a kiddo will almost ALWAYS let you know (verbally or non-verbally) if you are wrong, so take a risk and try it! Reach out with any questions and let me know how it goes!

Are you enjoying this content? Feel like you want to learn more? I highly recommend joining the Umbrella Community! We dive into topics like child counseling skills, trauma, creativity, and how to bring all of these ideas into your sessions! The best part is you get the support of a community and you can earn 15 CMTE credits! Find out more information at the Umbrella Community page here!

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