Welcome to a new series from our music therapy department – Research Roundup!

As promised, I am updating you about all of the new research journals we’ve received lately from the top music therapy and psychology researchers.

I was ecstatic to receive the latest Journal of Music Therapy in the mail last month. When I get a new peer reviewed research journal, the first thing I look for is an article that reinforces the efficacy of music therapy with hard numbers. This type of quantitative research takes a lot of time and manpower, so I’m not always able to find one. That was the case this month, so I had to move on to plan B, which was to find what a non-music therapist would find most interesting. This often goes against my intuition of picking through these booklets for charts, graphs, and percentages of improvement. I have to remind myself that most people would rather hear a heartwarming or inspiring anecdote.

Luckily, I DID find a lot of heartwarming and inspiring anecdotes in one article of this issue of JMT!

Several researchers decided to explore common themes of musical improvisation across many therapists and studies, and collected the data in an article titled Core Themes in Music Therapy Clinical Improvisation. They found three themes that came up again and again: professional artistry, the performing self, and meaning making.

As an existentially-minded therapist, I was most interested in the idea of meaning making. Although I spend most of my time as a therapist concerned with things that can be proven with numbers or scientific evidence, I do like to acknowledge that there is an important piece of music therapy that deals in things that cannot really be measured. I feel like as humans we create our own meaning to make our lives better, and the arts are a great way to guide us through that.

Musical improvisation, as the researchers noted, is an amazing way to explore metaphors in your own life.
Without necessarily trying or noticing, therapists and clients tend to interpret their experiences in the session, the authors say, to make sense of the music. People seem to interact within music the same way they interact with people in other situations in their lives. Or, sometimes, when people find it difficult to interact verbally or socially, they use musical interactions to make up for this. This “allows clients to live in different experiential spaces; connecting with the past, confronting the present, and experimenting about the future.”

This also allows for change to happen through the music, which can apply to other situations in the client’s life. “Both the client and therapist are agents of change in the music experience,” and this is part of the beauty that lies within the unpredictability of a two-person musical improvisation.

To see some more information from the article, click here or come read the full article in our studio waiting room!


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