Implementing Family Based Music Therapy
Family-based music therapy is a clinical intervention where music therapists involve the entire family in working with children, adolescents and families experiencing mental health problems. Its purpose is to increase individual and family congruence while decreasing stress, anxiety and depression.
Family-based music therapy is a holistic treatment option for adults, adolescents and children suffering from mental health disorders. This multimodal technique emphasizes music-making, expressive expression and interpersonal connections to promote healing within families.
This intervention consists of guided and creative musical activities, singing and movement with instruments. The family-centric and collaborative nature of these interventions encourages participation, communication, bonding and trust between all members of the family.
Group sessions are led by an experienced music therapist, guaranteeing safety and effectiveness of the program. They use developmentally appropriate approaches to musical activities like song selection, instrument exploration, small/large guided and creative movement exercises.
Studies have documented the beneficial effects of music on mental health and social development, including improving general moods and feelings of well-being for both adults and children alike. Furthermore, music has an positive effect on objective measures related to mental health such as quality of life, social skills and rehabilitation.
Families that experience separation due to abuse or neglect may undergo high levels of stress, which has been linked with negative outcomes for children (Jacobsen, 2017). Family centered music therapy as a therapeutic intervention can be an effective therapeutic solution in supporting reunification.
Although there are positive outcomes from this type of treatment, its implementation can be challenging. It requires collaboration among social service agencies, funders and service providers.
Implementation challenges were due to a variety of factors, such as the varying capacity and readiness of reunification families to participate in music-making activities with their children. This proved particularly difficult during the initial program implementation when many families were facing acute or severe needs.
Another challenge was managing the different comfort levels between families and clinicians when it came to family music-making activities. To ensure everyone felt comfortable participating, activities had to be designed so adults could easily join without experiencing discomfort or anxiety, allowing them to express themselves authentically without restricting their emotional expression.
At the start of the program, yoga mats were used to define physical space and help parents sit comfortably in a circle. Later on, furniture and carpeting were added to create a more structured atmosphere where family members could engage with one another as well as with a music therapy therapist.
Music-making activities within the group were designed to foster parent-child bonding and increase parental awareness of their child’s developmental milestones. Furthermore, it was essential for parents to have multiple opportunities to practice the knowledge and skills they were learning in parenting class.