Improvisatory Music Therapy
Improvisatory music therapy (IMT) is a form of musical interaction that allows clients and therapists to create new, spontaneous music in a secure therapeutic space. IMT offers clients the chance to express their emotions and engage in deep emotional work; additionally, studies have shown it to promote cognitive processing and emotional regulation for adolescents and adults.
An improvisational session offers clients a safe space to express their emotional experiences through musical contributions and body movements, which is essential for psychodynamic music therapy. Furthermore, it presents the therapist with an unique chance to build trust and rapport with the client by improvising together in a supportive setting (Graham, 2004; Foubert et al., 2017; Kenny, 2006; Seabrook, 2019; Strehlow & Lindner, 2014).
This method has been demonstrated to improve social communication skills and self-regulation in children with autism. A randomized trial of improvisational music therapy on young children with autism, TIME-A, revealed post hoc responder analyses showing that music therapy improved social affect as measured by ADOS at five months compared to standard care alone at this point.
Improvisation is a musical practice that doesn’t require any advance preparation or planning and is done in the moment (Bruscia, 2014; Dillard, 2006). It’s an expressive free-expression technique in which participants are encouraged to spontaneously play instruments without prior instruction or instruction. This can be done either in groups or individually with a therapist.
A typical session may begin with a brief review of the previous day’s events, followed by improvisational music performed in collaboration between client and therapist pairs and any emotions elicited by it. This process is repeated several times throughout each session. After recording these improvisations on university servers for personal access by both clients and therapists, these can be accessed privately by both.
In improvisational sessions, therapists utilize various music genres to assist clients in creating music that expresses their emotions and is meaningful. These could range from jazz to Eastern traditional music. After discussing these improvisations with the client in the following session, each piece is then included as part of a larger composition.
The therapist’s presence and guidance can be essential in the process, as they offer the necessary support for the client at this stage of their development. Furthermore, the therapist can offer feedback on the client’s contributions to the improvisation; encouraging them to play it again or making suggestions for improvements.
Kate had an intense need to express her emotions through music and body movement. While she could often feel anxious or overwhelmed, Kate found ways to express those sensations during extended improvisatory sessions.
Kate found this process of expressive writing to be more intimate than verbally communicating her emotions and experiences. Additionally, the exercises helped her become more cognizant of herself and what was important for her. Through exploration of fears and self-doubt that had been holding her back from expressing herself fully and finding happiness, Kate was finally able to find peace within herself.