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Playing with sound: the therapeutic use of music in direct work with children

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  • Communication
  • Design
  • Medicine
  • Musicology
  • Philosophy


Children rarely have the language or the cognitive development to process and convey their experiences solely through words, so spontaneously complement these with symbolic forms of expression and communication, such as play, metaphor and a variety of visual, auditory and kinaesthetic imagery. Consequently, social workers need to supplement verbal methods of assessment and intervention with more symbolic modes of communication and engagement when working directly with children. The play therapy literature has been a key source of guidance and the expressive arts therapies, such as art and drama therapy, are now well represented in the literature and training of social workers in 'direct work with children'. However, principles and practice from music therapy are under-represented. The writer, who is a social worker, psychotherapist and musician, shares her reflections on introducing techniques and theoretical approaches from music therapy into her own therapeutically orientated direct work. Suggestions are made as to how other practitioners (both musically trained and not) could develop the use of music as a further 'tool' in their direct work with children.

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