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How Does Music Therapy Work with Young People?

I started exploring narrative therapy techniques with Hip Hop back in 2012. A couple of weeks ago, I started a Music Therapy Experiential with Birmingham Centre for Art Therapies. It's been really insightful, especially since our weekly podcast guests have chatted so much about therapeutic beat-making. I have loved exploring how Hip Hop can be combined with other therapeutic modes.

Here is an article by that came from last week's training, by the British Association for Music Therapists.



Music Therapy with Adolescents

Music therapy

Music therapy is a psychological therapy which uses mainly musical improvisation to build a relationship between therapist and client. It can help people of all ages and abilities but is often used when someone finds it difficult to engage with a purely verbal therapy.

How can music therapy help adolescents? Adolescence can be a difficult time involving the establishment of identity, morality and beliefs, development of sexuality and integration into society. For some adolescents these may be exacerbated by experiences of trauma, insecure attachments, disability, social deprivation and exposure to negative influences which can lead to aggression, oppositional behaviour, criminal activity, depression or self harming. Music therapy offers a safe, non- threatening space for adolescents to address personal and wider societal issues through a musical and verbal dialogue and to use their relationship with the music and with the therapist to help address their transition from childhood to adulthood. Sessions can be 1:1 or in groups, depending on the level of psychological support needed and the need for emphasis on peer relationships.

What happens in a session? Generally the young people are free to guide the content of the session, within therapeutic boundaries. Adolescents frequently choose to compose music on a computer, write songs or raps and improvise on musical instruments. This can be 1:1 or in a group, and the music may be recorded onto a CD if they choose to share their compositions. Group sessions allow young people to find positive and creative ways of relating with others through the music which they may not have previously experienced. Sometimes the therapist may suggest certain activities if s/he feels this may be beneficial.

Case Vignette K was a fifteen year old boy with a history of significant trauma. There were concerns about his lack of empathy or responsibility for actions, aggressive outbursts and sexually predatory behaviour towards younger boys. He was also involved in street crime. Initially K would sit hunched up, fiddling with his mobile phone and found it hard to interact with the the