Music Therapy by Proxy: Using Humanised Images in Song – Carol Chambers

Volume 5 (1) 2013 – Article

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Music Therapy by Proxy: Using Humanised Images in Song

Carol Chambers



Developing awareness, exploration and expression of emotionally sensitive issues can be difficult for some clients in music therapy. They may find it hard to express emotion through improvised music and may turn instead to the perceived security of the repetition of known songs.

This paper presents the results from a completed research PhD, a qualitative case study based on naturalistic clinical practice, which examined the song choices of one woman in a medium-secure forensic unit over the three-year course of her music therapy.

A descriptive narrative account was subjected to analysis according to a modified form of therapeutic narrative analysis (Aldridge and Aldridge 2002), resulting in the abstraction of a series of generative metaphoric images, framed within a chronological series of events. Crucially, these images were found to be humanised figures, yet they were also emotionally decentred or depersonalised. When approached from the philosophical and methodological perspective of behaviourism, which views these as conditioned responses associating music with life experiences as part of a process of developing self-identity, such images can be seen to provide an unspoken voice for the client’s feelings to be expressed in a manner that is personally revealing, socially acceptable, culturally accessible and therapeutically constructive.

I assert that using these third-person characters as a form of proxy facilitates mutual reference and experimentation, and places music firmly at the heart of a socially constructed process of music therapy.


imagery; metaphor; song lyrics; forensic music therapy


Carol Chambers, PhD, qualified as a music therapist in 1982 at Roehampton, UK. She has worked with many client groups in private practice and, formerly, as Co-ordinator and Head Therapist at Nottingham MusicSpace, and she gained her PhD in forensic psychiatric music therapy from the University of Nottingham. Carol is a member of the research group ‘Theatre, Dance, Music and Consciousness’ at the University of Lincoln and has presented work on both music therapy and consciousness on an international basis. She is also a qualified teacher and is currently the Education Manager at HMP Lincoln, UK.