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«SONGWRITING IN THERAPY BY JOHN A. DOWNES A Final Project submitted to the Campus Alberta Applied Psychology: Counselling Initiative In partial ...»

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professional and cultural identities affected what I chose to present and how I presented it? Answering this question could be the topic for a paper in itself and for brevity’s sake I will not explore this question thoroughly. However, I am aware that the research topic reflects my personal values and beliefs regarding the healing aspects of creative self-expression. I am also aware that there are limitations in the applications and explanations of each songwriting technique due to the narrow scope of my cultural knowledge. No guide to songwriting in therapy will explain every form of music that exists within world cultures because the scope of material and the possible ways of composing music and songs is so incredibly vast. Therefore, I chose to present materials that reflect what I know and understand within the scope of my personal, professional and cultural identities.

Contextualization. This is a process of inquiring into and disclosing the context of the phenomenon being studied and the research study itself (Abrams, 2005, Bruscia, 1998)). The completion of this final project is part of the requirements for a master in counselling degree. Students are encouraged to think about a final project and align course assignments toward addressing their chosen topics. My topic melds the disciplines of counselling and music therapy together. The aim of the project is to contribute to the field of music therapy in a meaningful way and make songwriting more accessible for therapists and clients.

Therefore, I drew upon ideas from the fields of music therapy and counselling in constructing the theoretical background and techniques for songwriting.

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songwriting, but it does not purport to cover every possible technique. This project contributes to the music therapy literature by providing ideas that may be used, adapted, or act as an inspiration to users who identify their clinical needs and create their own techniques of songwriting.

Groundedness. Groundedness (Glaser & Strauss, cited in Abrams, 2005) is meant to express “the extent to which the researcher orients research processes, data, and findings around the participants and phenomena in their original, living contexts” (Abrams, 2005, p. 249). This was accomplished through thick descriptions of songwriting techniques and ethical issues. The unique individual qualities of each technique and ethical issue were described, as well as situational and cultural contexts where applicable. The ethical dilemma illustrated the need for guidance regarding songwriting in therapeutic contexts by detailing an example of addressing the many ethical concerns and discussing the resulting implications.

Groundedness could have been increased by thick descriptions of implementing each technique with clients, describing actual ethical dilemmas experienced by music therapists who use songwriting in sessions, and gaining feedback of the guide from several skilled professionals in the field and their clients. This was not done due to the limited scope of this project.

Durability (Lincoln & Guba, 1985). Durability represents “the consistency and stability of findings throughout repeated applications (stepwise replication) of the research method” (Abrams, 2005, p.250). Once this project is published,

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durability will be revealed through repeated application, evaluation of meaningfulness and the value of the findings. The durability of the guide to songwriting in therapy remains speculative until clinicians actually use the materials and record their results.

Usefulness. Usefulness or relevance (Stige cited in Wheeler & Kenny, 2005; Wheeler, 2005) is an appraisal of this project’s applied value. I see this project as a contribution to practical knowledge that is applicable in real life contexts. What is more, it opens up a discussion that needs to take place in the profession regarding the ethical considerations of songwriting in therapy.

Hopefully this project will empower members of the music therapy and counselling professions to use songwriting in an ethical manner as a result of its writing and the subsequent raising of the reader’s awareness.

Comprehensibility (Cobb & Hagemaster, cited in Abrams, 2005). This theme asks if the research is understandable. This has yet to be evaluated.

Certainly those within the music therapy field should understand the concepts and instructions in the guide as a result of their training, but I wonder how many counsellors without music therapy or music training will be able to utilize these methods. Specialized training in music therapy and music may present a barrier for some, as will level of talent, skill, and willingness to try a new technique of therapy. Having some understanding of the audience for the guide, I have attempted to make it clear in purpose, organized, and easy to read. For

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might change to make it more aesthetically pleasing.

Aesthetic depth (Bruscia, 1998). This theme asks if any beauty is conveyed in the writing of the project. Beauty can be expressed in many ways, including the creativity with which I expressed the presentation of the ideas in the guide so as to inspire different ways of working with clients. The guide has elements of structural beauty, that being “economy, clarity, cohesion, harmony, balance and wholeness” (Abrams, 2005, p. 252). What is lacking in the guide is expressive beauty such as the imaginative use of creative media. Although APA style guidelines were not followed in the techniques section of the guide, the assumed standards of writing had some effect on the format, as did time limitations. Straightforward writing and presentation format were more economical than poetic writing (ironically!) and inclusion of graphics. For publication purposes, the guide itself could include more examples and graphics to make it more engaging for the reader.





Congruence (Bruscia, 1998). This is “the degree to which all of the various components within a given study align so that the study is in harmony with itself” (Abrams, 2005, p. 252). In writing this project I have attempted to present a flow of ideas from establishing the need, providing a history and theoretical background, presenting songwriting techniques, and discussing the ethical implications of engaging in this therapeutic work. I have attempted to make the work resonate with a coherent framework of meanings and assumptions that are guided by my own intentions, values and ideals. Abrams (2005) and Stige (as

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appropriateness of their methodology. I believe that the methodology for this project was appropriate given the project’s scope and time limitations.

Ethical integrity (Guba & Lincoln, 1989; Stige, as cited in Wheeler & Kenny, 2005). I believe that my project demonstrates ethical integrity by showing concern for the proper referencing of the source of ideas, showing concern for the validity of songwriting in therapy, and showing concern for the protection of users of the guide through an exploration of ethical issues. Ethical integrity could have been improved had I allowed the CAMT to respond to the issues of ethics that I have raised. I have to take responsibility for opening up this discussion and following it through by drawing the CAMT’s attention to the ethical issues I have presented, and supporting the resolution of the issues by providing further input, support, and advocacy for resolution.

Intersubjectivity (Elliot, Fischer & Rennie, 1999). This is the “degree to which the researcher integrates the perspectives of others throughout the various stages of the research” (Abrams, 2005, p. 253). Intersubjectivity has been limited to the input and feedback of my project supervisor. With ethical approval I could have included feedback from many more people, but deadlines and a desire to streamline the process did not allow this to occur. Thus, what is missing is the “support, guidance, feedback, scrutiny, dialogue, uncovering, and arrival of insights” (Abrams, 2005, p. 253) by myself with the aid of others. Peer review and evaluations of the songwriting techniques by clients would have contributed “additional perspectives on the researcher’s already well-informed

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findings” (Abrams, 2005, p. 254).

Two additional components. Lincoln and Guba (1985) suggest that subjectivity in qualitative research should be checked via credibility, dependability, confirmability and transferability. Two of these checks seem applicable to this research. Dependability asks if all reasonable areas have been explored. In answer to this question in regards to this research, the answer is both yes and no. Yes, in that for the scope of this project a reasonable amount of research was completed and a reasonable number of techniques for songwriting in therapy were presented. No, in that the topic of songwriting in therapy has not been exhausted. The number of techniques is only limited to the imagination and creativity of human beings; therefore there will always be more to explore.

Confirmability asks if a third party researcher could follow the chain of events that led to the research findings. Here again, the answer is yes and no.

Yes, in that a third party could review all the materials that have been referenced as sources of material and inspiration for the guide for therapeutic songwriting.

No, in that each researcher who reviewed the very same material will arrive at different and unique conclusions due to investing themselves in the process of creating songwriting techniques.

Recommendations Writing on the topic of songwriting in therapy is far from complete.

Therefore I recommend that others who wish to contribute ideas on this topic take the opportunity to expand on these techniques as well as making their own

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continues to expand. As others do their research and writing, I suggest that they keep a reflective journal so that they are aware of the values that influence their work.

Future research can be grounded in the actual implementation of songwriting in therapy techniques. In some ways Baker and Wigram (2005) accomplished this in their edited book; however, they did not address the ethical issues that result from implementing songwriting in therapy. The groundedness of the techniques of songwriting in therapy will increase with the writing of thick descriptions of study findings and interpretations. In addition, when therapists begin using the techniques in the guide to songwriting in therapy, they may offer feedback on its durability, usefulness, and comprehensibility, while also providing intersubjectivity so that adaptations and improvements to the document can be made.

Finally, not only will I bring the issues of the ethical use of songwriting in therapy to the attention of the CAMT, but also I encourage others to do the same.

Once ethical guidelines are in place, the CAMT and therapists can be assured that those who implement songwriting in therapy will be informed and ethical in their practice.

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At last My project is finally finished I’ll have some time to replenish My energy that’s so diminished!

At last I’ll think of some things to do That don’t have me looking askew At a monitor made by Daewoo.

I’ll take some time to make contact With friends who’ve assumed I died I’ll tell them I missed all their phone calls And they won’t give me grief, though I lied I’m done Though there are still hoops to jump through I’ll not let them get me too blue ‘Cause I am done writing, at last!

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Abrams, B. (2005). Evaluating qualitative music therapy research. In Barbara L

Wheeler (Ed.), Music therapy research (2nd ed., pp. 246-258). Gilsum, NH:

Barcelona Publishers.

Alexander, K.C. (1990). Communicating with potential adolescent suicides through poetry. The Arts in Psychotherapy, 17, 125-130.

Anderson, H. & Goolishian, H. (1992). The client is the expert: A not-knowing approach to therapy. In S. McNamee & K. Gergen (Eds.), Therapy as social construction (pp. 25-39). London: Sage.

Baker, F. (2005). Working with impairments in pragmatics through songwriting following traumatic brain injury. In F. Baker & T. Wigram (Eds.) Songwriting: Methods, techniques and clinical applications for music therapy clinicians, educators and students. London: Jessica Kingsley

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Baker, F., & Wigram, T. (2005). Songwriting: Methods, techniques and clinical

applications for music therapy clinicians, educators and students. London:

Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Beck, A.T., Weissman, A., Lester, D., & Trexler, L. (1974). The measurement of pessimism: The hopelessness scale. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 42(6), 861-865.

Bolton, G. (1999). "Every poem breaks a silence that had to be overcome": The therapeutic power of poetry writing. Feminist Review, 62, 118-132.

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working alliance. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research & Practice, 16(3), 253-260.

Borys, D. S. (1994). Maintaining therapeutic boundaries: The motive is therapeutic effectiveness, not defensive practice. Ethics and Behavior, 4 (3), 267-273.

Boxill, E.H. (1985). Music therapy for the developmentally disabled. Rockville, Maryland: Aspen Publishers, Inc.

Bruscia, K. E. (1987). Improvisational models of music therapy. Springfield, Illinois: Charles C Thomas.

Bruscia, K.E. (1998). Standards of integrity for qualitative music therapy research. Journal of Music Therapy, 35, 176-200.

Cameron, J. (1992). The artist's way: A spiritual path to higher creativity. New York: Tarcher/Putnam.

Canadian Art Therapy Association (1997). Standards of practice. Retrieved July 13, 2004 from www.catainfo.ca/standards.pdf.

Canadian Association for Music Therapy (1999). Code of ethics. Retrieved July 13, 2004 from www.musictherapy.ca/pdf/ethicsen.pdf.

Canadian Copyright Act (1985) Retrieved July 18, 2004 from http://laws.justice.gc.ca/en/C-42.

Canadian Psychological Association. (2001). Canadian code of ethics for psychologists. In C. Sinclair & J. Pettifor (Eds.), Companion manual to the

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