Therapeutic Methods in Improvisation

Symposium this week was all about the affects of improvisation on the brain and the various styles of improvisation music therapists can use with clients. We watched a TED talk with Charles Limb about improvisation and the brain. Limb presents information found in a study he conducted about neuroimages of the brain during improvisation. Using an adapted keyboard that fit on a person’s lap, they were able to examine musician brains while they were improvising melodies on the keyboard. It was interesting to see the areas of the brain that light up when someone is improvising and how those parts of the brain affect other developmental areas.

One of my biggest take-aways from this topic however was the discussion regarding therapeutic methods in improvisation. We learned more ideas of how to incorporate improvisation in music therapy sessions. Some of the various methods of improvisation include mirroring, matching, dialouging, and accompanying. Mirroring is when you do exactly what the client does at the same time. Matching is where you improvise music that matches the client’s style of playing, while maintaining the same tempo, dynamic, and other musical elements. Dialouging is the unique experience where the client and therapist communicate thorugh their playing, while accompanying is providing rhythmic, harmonic, or melodic accompaniment but remaining dynamically underneath the client’s music. This provides a role as a soloist.

There are many other ways to implement improvisation with clients; these are just a few that stood out to me. I look forward to the opportunity to try out some of these methods with clients in my upcoming sessions. With the knowledge of how improvisation affects the brain, based on the TED talk we watched, and now the information of therapeutic methods for improvisation, I feel more equipped to experiment with this for some of my clients.

Becca’s TDM

Our symposium this week was actually a NMT meeting, where Becca presented a TDM over a client. TDM’s provide an outline of information for working towards a specific goal with a client. Becca’s TDM was thorough and provided us with more ideas regarding ways to work on cognition skills.

Becca discussed the first step of the TDM, an assessment of a client with choreoathetoid cerebral palsy, who demonstrates difficulty in sustaining attention and self-regulation. Her goal, presented in step two, is that he will improve cognition skills by participating in exercises such as social song stories, use of iPad social skills apps, creative process to write songs related to social skill topics, lyric analysis, improvisation, role-playing social scenarios, and modeling during group music sessions. Step three provides ways how a non-music therapist may address this goal. Becca gave several ideas, such as the use of videos to learn desired social skill behaviors. Step four gives appropriate NMT techniques that a music therapist might use to address this goal. Becca gave a great example of an original song she wrote to help the client learn how to use a quiet voice in social settings. The song is catchy, descriptive of appropriate times to keep a quiet voice, and focuses on the positive desired actions, rather than what not to do.

Finally, step five in the TDM explains how to generalize the information learned in step four back to the client’s natural environment. Becca stated that after the client learns the song, they could begin speaking the song in rhythm and eventually fading out the musical cues completely. By remembering the words to the song without having to sing it, the client can demonstrate his comprehension of what he learned about keeping a quiet voice. We discussed other ideas, such as sending home a recording of the song to practice at home, as well as creating a video to model the behavior. Following our discussion, the group did just that, make a video. In the video, we modeled the correct behavior of keeping a quiet voice while in the waiting room of the music therapy center. It was fun and can be beneficial to Becca as she continues to work towards this goal with this client.