«SONGWRITING IN THERAPY BY JOHN A. DOWNES A Final Project submitted to the Campus Alberta Applied Psychology: Counselling Initiative In partial ...»
Freed (1987) suggests that lyrical analysis cannot only offer insight into the meaning clients give their creative work, but can also lead to clarifying the feelings being expressed, identifying their needs, and actively seeking productive solutions to problems. Using open questions and declarative probes, therapists are able to encourage clients to examine the multiple layers of meaning that are evident in their lyrical and musical creations, and help clients work through their issues. Muntigl (2004) states that questions “are a central resource for scaffolding clients in using new meaning making resources” (p. 120). Once a song is completed, the discovery of meaning through debriefing is just as important to the work of therapy as the initial creative process and healing aspects of the song itself. Therefore, songwriting addresses therapy on multiple levels: through the process, product, and experience of songwriting in the context of a therapeutic relationship.
of language, as they will “use language differently, depending on the phase of development in which they are” (2004, p. 115). In the first phase of Muntigl’s model, clients demonstrate the initial ways in which they talk about themselves and reveal their worldviews. The second phase is indicated by clients’ transitional semiotic repertoires in which, through the influence of therapist scaffolding, clients are able to “produce new meanings by construing problems in novel ways” (Muntigl, 2004, p. 115). In the final stage, clients can “deploy a larger array of meanings in problem contexts” (p. 115) without the scaffolding influence of the therapist. Here again we can see the constructionist influence of the therapist on how clients create meaning from their work. The making of meaning takes place within the social and relational context of the therapeutic relationship through the use of language.
If the use of language can offer us data from which to track client progress, then it makes sense to have a means of analyzing lyrics and the conversations that take place in therapy sessions. For the purpose of this discussion, the focus will remain on song lyrics. Baker (2005) suggests analyzing lyrics by identifying words that indicate themes, feelings, thoughts, behaviours, and events in the past, present and future. To facilitate the process of analyzing the data, I suggest using a lyric analysis chart like the one presented here.
Theme Feelings Thoughts/Beliefs Behaviours Events
Characteristics of the music:
Key: ________ Tempo_________ Style___________ Emotional tone________
In addition to analyzing the lyrics, I have included spaces to record some characteristics of the accompanying music chosen by clients, as clients may also assign meaning to the music as well. Over the course of time, the analysis of several songs may begin to reveal patterns or significant changes. As this data is collected, clients can review it so that they may offer their interpretations. Shapiro (2004) suggests that when conducting qualitative research with poetic forms, researchers should present the written work in its entirety so that readers can act as triangulated investigators. So although the chart above may be helpful in analyzing songwriting data, it should be presented along with the original work so that reflection upon the original is always possible.
can be interpreted. It is incumbent on therapists to recognize these influences and realize that interpretations are fluid and subject to change, rather than concrete and stable. As any factor within the client, the therapist, their relationship, or the overall context changes, so will the interpretation of the song as data. With this in mind, therapists need to remember that clients’ interpretations and statements of meaning are their truths, but perhaps only in the current moment of expression.
This section of the guide for songwriting in therapy presents an ethical dilemma that might occur as a result of writing songs with clients. Several pertinent factors are addressed, such as the issue of ownership, permission for use, and confidentiality. The process of addressing the ethical dilemma from the personal perspective of the author presents one possible solution. This ethical decision making process is included in this guide to encourage readers to consider every step of their actions when implementing songwriting in therapy with clients, and take the necessary precautions prior to finding themselves in an ethical dilemma.
Ethical Dilemma A music therapist sees an 18-year-old young man for individual music therapy sessions as part of his treatment in a multi-disciplinary treatment program. The supervising psychologist asks the music therapist to address appropriate emotional expression. One of the treatment procedures is songwriting.
The young man has written several songs in cooperation with the therapist. He provides lyrical ideas and some direction regarding the style of music he thinks is appropriate for the lyrical content. The therapist fills in the gaps by helping to structure the lyrics and facilitates the composition of the music by offering choices to the client regarding chord progressions and melodic options. However, sometimes the music therapist simply puts music to the
in the songs, and have the client gain some insight into his emotional issues using this non-threatening intervention.
Once a song is written, it is rehearsed and performed. The music therapist attempts to have the client contribute to this process as well by playing percussion instruments, sequencing keyboards and occasionally singing.
The agency’s program coordinator observes a session where the client and music therapist perform each of the songs written in the music therapy sessions. He is impressed by what he hears, and after the session, he suggests to the client and therapist that they should record a compact disk (CD) and use it as a fund-raiser for the non-profit agency. The young man is excited by the idea of having his songs on CD, but would rather that he receive any financial benefit from CD sales.
Introduction Music therapy is a diverse field of practice, and not all treatment protocols include cooperative songwriting with the client. However, several issues are raised for those who use songwriting as a form of treatment. Who owns the songs produced in the music therapy setting? What rights do the client and therapist have in regards to using these songs? What are the copyright implications? What value is placed on the songs as reflections of the process of therapy? What guidelines exist in the Canadian Association for Music Therapy (CAMT) Code of Ethics (1999)? What other ethical principles and standards
other questions are addressed in this section.
Considering that music therapy interventions often include the creation of music, it is interesting that the CAMT Code of Ethics (1999) does not include suggestions for the handling of music that is produced in music therapy sessions.
Making music in a therapeutic setting is what sets music therapists apart from other forms of helping professions. Looking for similar issues in the other arts therapy disciplines may be useful. The Canadian Art Therapy Association Standards of Practice (1997) addresses the handling of client-produced artwork.
One might assume that similar means of handling client music could be adapted for the CAMT code. However, there is a difference between how art therapists and music therapists encourage expression with their clients. Typically, art therapists facilitate creation of artwork by providing the materials and context for artistic expression. In contrast, a music therapist may provide instruments and context, but also facilitate the writing or performance of music by being directly involved in the process as co-creators. A music therapist may contribute ideas, skills and structure to the song composition. This may include providing accompanying music for the client’s lyrics, performing with skill on various instruments, and singing the song itself. It is rare that clients can produce songs or music without the music therapist’s input.
In relation to music produced by the client and therapist in the music therapy setting, the CAMT Code of Ethics (1999) does not address ownership, consent for use, storage, confidentiality, performance, recording, or any issues related to
conceptualized in the session. Is it as sensitive as session notes? Should music produced in the session be thought of as being similar to verbal interaction shared in the session? Obviously some guidelines need to be written and added to the CAMT code of ethics. Although the CAMT code of ethics and ethical decision-making model is similar to the Canadian Code of Ethics for Psychologists (Canadian Psychological Association, 2001), the Canadian Psychological Association (CPA) code will be used.
The first step in addressing the issues presented in the vignette is to identify the individuals or groups that may be affected by any decisions. The 18-year-old male client is affected since the decision relates directly to musical works produced in his music therapy sessions. The music therapist is affected since the decision relates to the music therapy sessions he has directed and the music he has facilitated with the client in the music therapy sessions. The agency director is affected since it was his idea to make a fund-raising CD using the client’s songs. The agency itself could be affected either positively or negatively depending on what course of action is taken by the client, the therapist or by legal representatives. Finally, other music therapists and agency clients could be affected in the future due to changes in policies or program directives.
The second step of the ethical decision-making process is to identify the relevant ethical principles and standards in the CPA code that relate to the vignette case. This may include consideration of individual and group rights.
Standard I.5 states that a therapist is to avoid or refuse “to participate in practices disrespectful of the legal, civil, or moral rights of others” (CPA, 2001, p.
47, italics added). In creating a work of art, such as a musical composition, the issue of copyright is immediately raised. In the vignette, there is no mention of policy concerning assignment of copyright. If the agency has a policy stating that copyright of creative works produced in creative art therapy settings is assigned to the agency, then there is some argument for the agency program coordinator to establish ownership rather than the creators of the work, in this case, the client and therapist. However, under Canadian copyright law, there is some recourse for the creators in terms of moral rights.
“In many cases an author’s work may be an expression of the author’s personality and an extension of the author’s ego and sense of self” (Kratz, 1998, p. 35). Use of the work in ways other than what was contemplated by the authors may demonstrate disrespect and also violate a CPA standard of working and acting in a spirit of fair treatment to others (CPA, 2001). The Canadian Copyright Act (1985) provides specific moral rights for authors, namely a paternity right, an integrity right and an association right. The paternity right allows an author who does not hold the copyright of a work to control the use of his or her name when being associated with the work. The integrity right allows the author to object to or restrain certain uses of the artistic work. The association right allows the author to restrain the association of his or her work with a product, especially if it will reflect negatively on the author’s reputation.
arts therapy sessions, the client and therapist under Canadian copyright law would still maintain some control and have legal arguments for not using such materials for fund-raising efforts. In making a decision based on the vignette, the assumption is made that the agency does not hold copyright privileges on materials produced in creative arts therapy programs.
The vignette also raises the issue of informed consent. The assumption in regards to the vignette is that a policy on ownership of client-therapist coproduced materials has not been established and the client was not asked to give consent regarding use of music composed in the music therapy sessions.
The client consented to participate in music therapy sessions and was made aware of the process of working with a music therapist in a cooperative manner.
Informed consent raises the question of whether or not the therapist made informed consent an ongoing process due to the issues involved. Do the songs have a life outside of the therapy setting? What are the implications regarding performance and sharing of the songs considering that they were the result of a cooperative effort? Should the songs be treated in the same manner as verbal contributions in the session? Are the songs subject to the same policies of confidentiality? Once songwriting began, the therapist should have asked the client how he wanted to treat the songs and how they would be stored and recorded.
As a music therapist, I view musical expression and song creation as a direct reflection of the internal cognitive and emotional dynamics of the individual.