The challenges of fostering and maintaining continuity in a music therapy group for mothers and children who meet primarily during school holidays
This paper explores the concept of continuity in the context of a long-term open music therapy group for mothers and children with learning disabilities between 5 and 18 years old. Based in a small rural village in Japan where there was no previous access to music therapy, the group has been active for 13 years and meets primarily during school holidays. Over time, up to 27 Japanese mothers with their children have participated in the group. The therapist encourages musical interaction and expression through musical improvisation and engagement with the family.
The significance of continuity in therapeutic practice is explored in different ways. In addition to focusing on a case study of individual music therapy with a child on the autistic spectrum (who attended the group), this paper presents feedback from the mothers who participated together with their children in the group. Theories and methods which the music therapist has found helpful in her work with the group are also discussed, such as the “back to basics” music therapy approach (Drake 2008) which draws on attachment theory (Bowlby 1988) and the writings of Winnicott (1960, 1963, 1971). Continuity is discussed in terms of helping the group to develop a safe environment to which the mothers and children repeatedly returned. It is proposed that the process of developing this safe environment in turn, may eventually lead to the type of parent networking that may be able to support children with learning disabilities throughout their lifetime.
group music therapy; children and family; continuity
Okiko Ishihara qualified as a music therapist in 2001 at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and completed an MA at Anglia Ruskin University, UK. Currently, Okiko works with children with learning disabilities in private practice and in communities, and with adults in mental health services in Japan. She also gives lectures at Soai University and Nara Medical University, Japan.