Songwriting in Music Therapy Practice

Jones, J.D. (2006). Songs composed for use in music therapy: A survey of original songwriting practices of music therapists. Journal of Music Therapy, 43(2), 94-110.

Songwriting is a powerful yet flexible technique. Among many purposes and applications, music therapists write original material to personalize sessions, teach non-musical material or behaviors, and engage in the therapeutic process. MT-BCs help clients write songs to express personal feelings or perspectives, participate in a healthy way and to be part of a group project, or reminisce and contribute to their lasting legacy.

Extant literature has researched the extra-musical benefits of singing songs, listening to music, and discussing lyrics, as well the clinical efficacy of songwriting. “Songwriting has been documented as effective in achieving a number of clinical goals, including increasing verbal communication (Edwards, 1998), increasing socialization and interaction among group members (Hilliard, 2001), identifying and improving self-concept and self-esteem (Edgerton, 1990; Freed, 1987) increasing the expression of feelings (Cordobes, 1997; Kennelly, 2001; O’Callaghan, 1996), increasing a sense of cohesion among group members (Cordobes, 1997; Freed, 1987), and increasing coping skills, such as problem solving (Edgerton, 1990). Process songwriting is an effective technique for both individual and group therapy, and is a preferred intervention by certain clients (Gallagher & Steele, 2002)” (Jones, 2006, p. 96).

Writing a song can be done using many different methods. Original lyrics “piggybacked” to a familiar melody, or perhaps melodies can be built from client improvisations and verbal contributions. Songs can be prepared by the therapist in advance in order to target specific client goals. Instructional songs can be used to teach appropriate behaviors or to teach task analysis of daily living skills. Social stories can be sung in song and/or set to musical accompaniment. In addition to using these songwriting strategies supported by research, therapists will innovate new methods and applications. Songwriting is an exciting technique teeming with creative opportunities.

Jennifer Jones (2006) wanted to learn more about songwriting in music therapy practice. This post has summarized some of her literature review, and the following information is presented based on her survey: Seventy-three percent of 302 respondents acknowledged inclusion of original music in their work. Music therapists tended to report that songwriting was generally easy or almost always easy, and though participants learned through school and internship programs, songwriting skills were most frequently reported to be developed on their own, on the job. The most highly rated compositional choice was musical similarity to client preferences.

MT-BCs serving early childhood, schools, and individuals with developmental disabilities were much more likely to write songs than therapists working in older adult and mental health settings. Goals areas addressed through songwriting included emotional-expression (42 respondents), cognitive-academic-learning (37), behavioral-attentional-task-directed (25), social-communication goals (25), multiple goal categories marked (25), speech-communication (23), social-interaction (19), physical-movement (15), creativity goals (4), no response (4), and spirituality goals (2). No respondents reported using songwriting for musical goals. In descending order of rated frequency, music therapists decided to write songs because original material can be individualized, is novel and stimulating, renews creativity, strengthens the therapeutic relationship, offers a break from routine, and sometimes just because identifying an applicable composed song is time-consuming.

Cordobes, T.K. (1997). Group songwriting as a method for developing group cohesion for HIV-seropositive adult patients with depression. Journal of Music Therapy, 34, 46-67.

Edgerton, C.D. (1990). Creative group songwriting. Music Therapy Perspectives, 8,15-19.

Edwards, J. (1998). Music therapy for children with severe burns. Music Therapy Perspectives, 16, 21-26.

Freed, B.S. (1987). Songwriting with the chemically dependent. Music Therapy Perspectives, 4, 13-18.

Gallagher, L.M., & Steele, A.L. (2002). Music therapy with offenders in a substance abuse/mental illness treatment program. Music Therapy Perspectives, 20, 117-122.

Hilliard, R. (2001). The use of cognitive-behavioral therapy in the treatment of women with eating disorders. Music Therapy Perspectives, 19, 109–113.

Jones, J.D. (2006). Songs composed for use in music therapy: A survey of original songwriting practices of music therapists. Journal of Music Therapy, 43(2), 94-110.

Kennelly, J. (2001). Music therapy in the bone marrow transplant unit: Providing emotional support during adolescence. Music Therapy Perspectives, 19, 104-108.

O’Callaghan, C.C. (1996). Lyrical themes in songs written by palliative care patients. Journal of Music Therapy, 33, 74-92.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

NCCIH Features MT for ASD

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) specifically featured Music Therapy (MT) to benefit individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in their April 2016 Clinical Digest: “The existing evidence base indicates that melatonin may be beneficial for sleep disorders associated with ASD. Music therapy may have a positive effect on social interaction, and communication and behavioral skills in those affected by ASDs. However, there is insufficient evidence to determine whether other complementary health approaches such as modified diets, supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids or vitamin B6, or chelation are efficacious for ASD symptoms” (NCCIH, 2016).

The e-newsletter compares the evidence-base, efficacy, and safety of common approaches to help those with ASD. Evidence for MT’s efficacy is attributed to the 2014 Cochrane review (Geretsegger, M., Elefant, C., Mössler, K.A., & Gold, C., 2014) “of 10 studies involving a total of 165 children with ASD found that music therapy was superior to “placebo” therapy or standard care for social interaction, non-verbal and verbal communication skills, initiating behavior, and social-emotional reciprocity. The review concluded that music therapy may help children with ASD to improve their skills in areas such as social interaction and communication, and may also contribute to increasing social adaptation skills in children with ASD and to promoting the quality of parent-child relationships” (NCCIH, 2016).

Geretsegger, M., Elefant, C., Mössler, K.A., & Gold, C. (2014). Music therapy for people with autism spectrum disorder. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2014, Issue 6. Art. No.: CD004381. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD004381.pub3

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH). (April 2016). Autism Spectrum Disorder and Complementary Health Approaches. Retrieved from https://nccih.nih.gov/health/providers/digest/autism-spectrum-disorder

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

MT on Social Functioning in Mental Health

“Promotion of positive relationships and trust is often crucial in mental health treatment. Social isolation is a common symptom of schizophrenia, and improved social functioning is a common predictor of remission (Schennach et al., 2012). In clients with PTSD, connecting with others is often a primary treatment focus…  Although more research is needed, music therapy may be capable of improving overall social functioning in these populations by boosting baseline hormone levels.”

“Literature suggests that music can mediate hormones related to stress and social affiliation. These biological mechanisms help music foster a trusting client-therapist bond and minimize client stress. Furthermore, the literature implicates auditory stimuli (including speech) as a key hormonal trigger. This is particularly meaningful for music therapists planning interventions early in the therapeutic process, because it places an emphasis on music and speech in the therapeutic relationship. This interpretation might be extended to suggest that therapists should pay special attention to vocal tone, musical timbres, acoustics, word choice, and background sounds during the first few sessions with a new client. In other words, the auditory components of the client-therapist communication may be the cornerstones of trust development.”

Legge, A.W. (2015). On the neural mechanisms of music therapy in mental health care: Literature review and clinical implications. Music Therapy Perspectives, 33(2), 128-141. doi: 10.1093/mtp/miv025

Schennach, R., Riedel, M., Obermeier, M., Jäger, M., Schmauss, M., Laux, G., & Möller, H.J. (2012). Remission and recovery and their predictors in schizophrenia spectrum disorder: Results from a 1-year follow-up naturalistic trial. Psychiatric Quarterly, 83(2), 187–207.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail