music and emotion

How Music Therapy Interventions Can Address the Culture of Bullying

In recent years, the conversation on how to curb bullying has been fruitful and productive. However, it remains a persistent phenomenon today, especially among children.

Bullying involves acts showing hostile intent predicated on power imbalance, which takes different forms like provocation and intimidation. A recent study from the National Center for Education Statistics found that one in five students between ages 12 and 18 have experienced bullying. The study also found that the intimidation tactics have increasingly taken the form of online or text harassment—around 15% of bullied students have reportedly experienced this.

Bully prevention strategies are crucial for schools and other supposedly safe spaces where children learn. The act of being bullied leads to stress, distress, and anxiety. Researchers from King's College London in the United Kingdom even uncovered that bullying has long-term effects on children. The study found that children who experience bullying have higher risks of mental health illnesses and hampered brain development. Indeed, Maryville University highlights that there are fundamental connections between mental health and learning abilities, and the two affect each other in more ways than we realize. Bullying has many long-term impacts, and chief among them is how it can impair a child’s capacity to learn.

Music as a prevention strategy

Bullying is a complex issue, especially with children. It encompasses the social, economic, structural, and psychological dimensions of upbringing. As a social relationship, bullying is harmful both for the victim as well as the bully. This is why prevention strategies being used are often intertwined and comprehensive.

A landmark study from the University of Minnesota in 2013 found that music therapy can be used as an effective intervention for both bullies and victims. While the longitudinal study focused on gender-based bullying, it showed how exposure to music and interaction mediated by instruments helped in easing negative dynamics among children. By exposing them to feminine-masculine types of music and instruments, the music therapy improved peer relations and self-management.

How does it work?

Music therapy is widely prescribed for many use cases. From pain management and anxiety relief to helping reduce the impacts of trauma and helping recovery, music therapy is seen as an effective alternative mediation for many conditions. As an intervention strategy, music therapy works towards multiple goals including cultivating social skills, regulating emotions, and diffusing toxic behaviors. It can also help children adjust after their non-structured summer vacation, when it’s time to go back to class again.

Music helps children develop their self-expression and socialization process. This is why it’s effective in directing and shaping social behaviors. For reducing bullying behaviors, music therapy is targeted at taking out aggressive behaviors and dis-incentivizing cliques. Psychologists from the University of Pretoria subjected students to music therapy and measured the changes in aggressive behaviors among students. The study found that music intervention, elicitations like drumming and song writing in particular—are effective in decreasing hostile behaviors. 

Choosing a method

One of the key characteristics of music therapy as an intervention is its flexibility. It’s an inexpensive but efficient way to deal with multiple goals including reducing bullying behaviors. Choosing an apt method would entail extensive goal setting in reducing bully behavior at school.

When used for children, music therapy often contain elements that are familiar to the students. More passive methods like music reminiscence and stimulation can encourage relaxation and socializing. Meanwhile, more active methods are more targeted. Singalong is a highly social method as it encourages participation in a collective setting. It’s a fun way to let them create more trust towards their peers.

Song writing and learning instruments are more advanced methods. By way of teaching skills, children learn introspection and benefit from peer learning. Incorporating classmate feedback sessions can encourage openness among children.

The potential of music therapy as an effective anti-bullying intervention program hinges on its impact on children’s overall development. The culture of bullying won’t go away in a flash, but the active engagement of children against it can be done one note at a time.

Exclusively written for MewsicMoves.Com

By: Leila Alayna

John Mews, Owner, Founder and Neurologic Music Therapist at Mewsic Moves is also trained in a social and emotional skill building drum facilitation program, “Beat The Odds® ” that utilizes drumming and rhythm to help children, teens as well as adult to connect to one another, improve attention, reduce anxiety and improve social skills throughout greater Los Angeles.

In this program development, researchers at UCLA have shown that,

Beat the Odds® can significantly improve a spectrum of behavior problems in children, such as inattention, withdrawn/depression, post traumatic stress, anxiety, attention deficit/hyperactivity, oppositional defiance, and sluggish cognitive tempo (Ho, Tsao, Bloch, & Zeltzer, 2011).

For more information on Beat the Odds® go to: https://uclartsandhealing.org/services/professional-development/beat-the-odds-drumming-program/

I also want to extend a special thank you to Leila Alayna for this special guest blog article.

Lets Be Social

Music is a Companion: Music Therapy and Mental Health Awareness

graphicstock-group-of-happy-friends-with-guitar-having-fun-outdoor_BRYnV72bW.jpg

In my 15 years of work as a music therapist I have supported many clients who struggle on a daily basis with mental health challenges depression and anxiety to mention a few. Many of clients throughout Los Angeles share the same story of feeling isolated, alone and like no one understands. Others also share the immense levels of shame and stigma that accompany these psychological mental health diagnoses. In my sessions I open up a safe space where each can share their experiences and stories of these intense feelings of embarrassment, shame and even stigmas that they face (many by their own family members!).

Just this past week in a music therapy mental health support group I encouraged clients to create a list of musical artists that they were aware of that lives with mental health condition(s) and shares it openly and publicly. This sparked a huge discussion around the topic and led us to share songs that reflected mental health awareness tat were either written or performed by these specific individual artists.

Musical artists that came to mind for most of the group members were artists such as: Lady Gaga, Demi Lovato, Eminem, Macklemore, Pink, and Kesha just to name a few. We then shared specific songs and discussed the artists realness about their mental health struggles in their songs and lyrics. Many clients shared, not only did they connect to the artists and their lyrics but that the music was also a “companion” for them when they felt like “no one was around” or “like no one understood”. One client shared,

“when I was all alone and depressed I would listen to Kesha and felt like she was there with me; through her lyrics I knew she understood and therefore helped me with my loneliness and knowing others do understand”.

May being mental health awareness month, I am grateful to so many music artists (as well as other public figures) that step into vulnerability and share the truth about their own mental health challenges. This place of vulnerability and sharing as Brene Brown speaks of in all her social platforms and books is pure “courage” and helping others to connect and not feel alone in their time of hardship.

If you feel alone, or like no one else understands please find solace in some others stories and music that many artists have shared. And furthermore, allow music to be that therapy in your life during during this difficult time. Find below a short list of songs that clients have shared this week in honor of mental health awareness and how music and many artists are shedding light, awareness and education.

If you are experiencing and forms of mental health challenges please do not hesitate to reach out to local therapists and or treatment centers, we are here for you. This is not a time to give into shame or embarrassment as majority of people struggle on a daily basis with mental health challenges and you do not need to do this alone. "You are not alone”.

Some songs clients chose that reflect Mental Health Awareness:

Throughout mental health awareness month we will be posting a song each day on our facebook page that reflects mental health awareness in music. Let music be your therapy, guide and your companion. Please feel free to share some of your songs as well in the comments below or on our social media platforms. We love to share and connect through music.

Let’s Be Social:

Banner Photo by OC Gonzalez on Unsplash

Music Therapy Addressing Back to School Needs

Schoolboys playing musical instruments in music class

September and October can be very challenging months for both parents and children transitioning back to school from a relaxing and non-structured summer. Going back onto a routine can be tough for both parents and their children.

Once school starts, most teachers will be very attuned to each child's needs in their classroom. Perhaps you've gotten a call to have your child taken from class because of your child's performance, behaviors or even social isolation? If this happens, it can make the transition even more stressful for both the parent and the child.

Parents then might try to find services that will support their child and address the concerns of their teachers. What kinds of therapy might help? occupational therapy? speech and language therapy? physical therapy?

What about music therapy? Maybe you've never even considered it. This form of therapy has been around for almost 80 years, yet surprisingly people are still unaware of its effectiveness, particularly for helping children with special needs.  

The fascinating aspect of music therapy is that you can be working on multiple goals simultaneously, such as speech/communication, fine/gross motor, social skills, emotional regulation, and others. For example, when playing a drum, a child can work on their gross motor skills, and at the same time be learning to regulate by maintaining a steady rhythm.  If you add in vocalizations, it can help them with communication.  Very few forms of therapy can compare to the versatility and efficacy of music therapy. 

Here are a few examples of why music therapy can be an effective therapy for your child to help with any of the goals and concerns that may arise during this hectic transition starting back to school.

1- Music can increase social skills

2- Music can help regulate your child

3- Music can increase your child's attention span/focus

4- Music strengthens your child's auditory skills

5- Music helps with memory and sequencing skills

6- Music is fun, engaging and rewarding

7- Music can help increase communication skills and language development

8- Music can help with understanding and processing children's feelings

9- Music can help with social-emotional development

10- Music can help with fine and gross motor skills

 

If you would like to learn more about music therapy please contact me: john@mewsicmoves.com

Let's Stay in Touch!

 

For FREE songs, videos and tips on how to support children with special needs through music click here.

 

Please share, like and leave your comments below as I love to hear from you.

Don't take it from me, its in the Research! Music Therapy and Autism: Significant Supporting Evidence

Image courtesy of samuiblue/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of samuiblue/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I can't count how many times I've been asked by parents and other professionals about scientific evidence to prove the efficacy of music therapy interventions with children with autism.  The study in the link below was conducted in comparison to other non-music based therapies, and the evidence was....significant!

I encourage you to click on the link below to learn more about how music therapy can help a child with autism.  I have seen these effects everyday for the past ten years and am excited to finally be able to share with you the research that supports our daily work.

Here are just a few highlights of what the researcher found:

  • Music Therapy produced longer events of joy and engagement of initiation
  • Music Therapy develops social skills 
  • Music Therapy is effective in increasing attention, focus, behavioural cues and interests
  • With Music Therapy, children were better able to express their emotions and share them with others.
  • There is significant evidence that Music Therapy supports social, emotional and motivational development in children with autism.

I often say to parents, "once a child is motivated and is having fun, their self-esteem is elevated."  A child with confidence can achieve more and will often work harder.  This is fundamental to our strength-based music therapy programs.  We begin with an improvisational program, building upon areas of strength to build confidence.  We then massage this into the overall goals and objectives of the program.  We have found this approach results in early successes and improved overall outcomes, just like this research indicates.  So don't take it from me, read the research yourself!

Here's the link:

Best Practice Autism: Autism and Improvisational Music Therapy