Exploring a potential role for music therapy to promote positive communication and emotional change for couples: A single-session pilot case study — Peter McNamara, Ruyu Wang & Hilary Moss

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Exploring a potential role for music therapy to promote positive communication and emotional change for couples: A single-session pilot case study

Peter McNamara, Ruyu Wang & Hilary Moss

ABSTRACT

This pilot case study explores a potential role for music therapy in relationship counselling by employing a case study design. It is contended that music therapy might support couples in understanding and communicating their relationship, affording opportunities for self-expression, emotional expression, communication (verbal and non-verbal) and social participation. The study was conceived with the objective of establishing a possible treatment or intervention which might stand alone or be included as part of a therapeutic service being offered to couples. Constructed around a single music therapy session with a married couple, the study comprised: an exploratory, semi-structured interview with the couple before the session; a music therapy session of 50 minutes’ duration; and a follow-up interview with the couple after the session. Four major themes emerged: (i) guarded, needy, things not meeting; (ii) happy together, venturing together; (iii) deep union; and (iv) transcendence. Data analysis was based on Van Manen’s (1990) phenomenological approach. The findings from this pilot project suggest music therapy’s potential for couples in promoting deeper emotional connection, positive communication and emotional change. Although the results should be treated with caution given the limitations of the methodological design, this study suggests that music therapy may provide an intimate environment to facilitate intense interpersonal interactions between the partners of a couple. This is possibly a new area of practice for music therapists, and further research is warranted.

KEYWORDS

music therapy, music, couple counselling, couple therapy

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHIES

Peter McNamara is a music therapist with qualifications in psychology, theology, chaplaincy and music therapy. Peter currently works with a range of clients: couples and individuals using psychodynamic music therapy, people with dementia, adults with intellectual difficulties, adolescents and children with autism and a variety of social and educational difficulties. Peter is married and lives in Ireland. [ptmcnamara@eircom.net] Ruyu Wang is a music therapist with qualification also in special education teaching. Ruyu has many years’ experience in special needs as a teacher and music therapist, currently working with children with autism and other learning disabilities. She presented at Special Education Conference 2018 in Singapore on the use of music and learning in a special education setting. [rwang0307@gmail.com] Hilary Moss is Course Director of the MA Music Therapy at the University of Limerick (UL), Ireland and formerly Director of the National Centre for Arts and Health, Dublin. She has an MBA in Health Services Management and is Chair of the University Arts and Health Research Cluster. She is holder of Irish Research Council funding, a member of the Health Research Institute and the Ageing Research Centre at UL. [Hilary.Moss@ul.ie]