«SONGWRITING IN THERAPY BY JOHN A. DOWNES A Final Project submitted to the Campus Alberta Applied Psychology: Counselling Initiative In partial ...»
Clinical Uses This method of lyric/poetry creation can be used with any client who can read and organize words into meaningful phrases. When therapists choose the field of words that is presented to the clients, they can do so with some intention.
For example, the words may touch of themes that represent dichotomies such as happiness versus depression, life versus death, holding on versus letting go. As this is possible, magnetic poetry may be useful in assessment and measuring progress toward treatment goals.
write, and organize words in a meaningful and syntactical manner. Clients need to be willing to explore this method of creative expression.
Therapist Skills Therapists need to facilitate the process by providing the rationale and instructions for the activity. Helping clients focus on a theme may also be required, although clients can also be given the opportunity to freely construct the lyrics/poetry to discover their own theme. Using appropriate open questions and declarative probes will help clients explore the meaning behind their words.
1. To facilitate the writing of poetry/lyrics by using a set field of word choices.
2. To facilitate self-expression through communication of feelings, thoughts and meaning.
3. To generate lyrical ideas for a songwriting activity.
Media and Roles Fridge magnet poetry kits may provide a suitable collection of words to
use for this exercise. An on-line version can be seen at:
http://www.magneticpoetry.com/magnet/. This page allows viewers to arrange thematic words into poetry. Therapists may wish to provide the words on printed cards that can display a larger typeface for people who have difficulty with vision or fine motor control. The completed poem/lyrics should be written down and copied for the records and the client.
to use them. The client’s role is to use the materials as a means of creative selfexpression. The therapist and counsellor can set the lyrics to music using a method that is presented later in this guide.
Format This songwriting technique will work best in an individual session when self-expression and meaning-making are the focus of therapy. It can be adapted for group use, but its purpose will change to one of building group cohesion and rapport rather than gaining insight.
Preparation Required The therapist needs to prepare the field of words that will be used by clients. Actual fridge magnet pieces can be used, or lists of words can be chosen randomly, from a dictionary, or they can be based on a theme. It is very important that thought goes into the words that are chosen to include in the field of words.
Therapists need to know when it is appropriate to include certain words or themes, and when it is inappropriate. Clients’ age, developmental characteristics, cognitive abilities, knowledge of language, culture, and life issues will affect the choices of words for inclusion in the field of words. As mentioned earlier, the size of the word cards is another consideration. Laminating the word cards will protect them so that they may be used repeatedly.
Procedures Explain the concept of magnetic poetry for song lyric creation. The therapist may choose not to mention songwriting until after the lyrics are created
may prove frustrating because it might not conform to song forms with which the clients are familiar.
Present the word cards spread out on a table, or the fridge magnets on a metal surface. Ask clients to arrange as many words as they wish into lines that make sense to them. Emphasize that there is no right or wrong way of completing the exercise.
Once the poem is complete, therapists can recite it out loud, or ask the client to do so. Using open questions and declarative probes may encourage clients to explain the meaning behind their words. If lyric writing has been the point of the exercise from the beginning, then begin the songwriting process by adding musical accompaniment and melody using techniques outlined later in this guide. If it has not been suggested earlier, therapists can ask clients whether they would be interested in setting their text to music.
Data Interpretation As with previous examples of lyric writing presented in this guide, clients should be the main interpreters of the meaning behind their creative process and content. If this method is used frequently, therapists may begin to see patterns emerge. When this is the case, it may be beneficial to point them out to clients and ask for their opinions of these observations.
As with other forms of lyric writing, the therapist provides the materials or opportunity, then steps out of the way so the clients’ creative process can take place.
Attributed to: Walker (1995), adapted by John Downes.
Salient Features This approach to lyric writing uses the influence of rapping and a rhyming dictionary to inspire clients to create their narratives.
Clinical Uses This style of music may appeal to some younger clients because of its popularity and ease of creation. Rap music can express many emotions and thoughts. For those young clients who are uncomfortable with singing, rap is often less threatening and easier to perform.
Client Prerequisites Clients who wish to perform their rap will need to have good verbal skills and the ability to speak in rhythm. A basic understanding of language and rhymes is necessary, as well as a desire to tell a meaningful story through the rap lyrics, rather than creating a less meaningful collection of rhyming couplets.
Therapist Skills Therapist benefit from having some experience with writing and performing rap lyrics to a rhythm track. As with any style of writing or performance, having some comfort level with the medium will make implementing the form with clients that much easier. A rhyming dictionary is used to facilitate the process of writing for the client. Therapists need to familiarize themselves with the use of rhyming dictionaries as they are organized differently than
Internet. The address is given in the resources section of this guide.
1. To facilitate the expression of thoughts and feelings by using rap as a style of expression.
2. To build rapport between the client and therapist.
3. To build self-esteem and self-expression skills.
Media and Roles Rap is a form of music that is influenced by rhythm. The rhythm of percussion sounds and a bass line are particularly important as the two provide a background structure on which the rap lyrics are built. Having percussion and bass tracks playing help inspire the creation of rap lyrics, and the overall tone of the lyrical content. As this is the case, keyboard instruments that play rap rhythm patterns (e.g., Yamaha DJX), musical software with rap or hip-hop rhythm programs (e.g., Sony Acid Music), or live instruments played with some skill can provide the musical influence that is so important to this genre of music.
The role of the therapist is to introduce the genre of writing rap by demonstrating some knowledge of the form and a degree of comfort in its creation and performance. The idea behind having these skills is to demonstrate the ease with which anyone can participate in rap. The therapist may also suggest thematic or topical ideas to write about, given some knowledge of the issues clients are facing in their lives. Therapists may also help in the use of the rhyming dictionary.
for any help they may need in finding rhyming words and fitting the lyrics into the rhythm they have chosen.
Format This activity can be done in individual or group sessions. As with most groups, writing a rap in a group presents the challenges of everyone participating equally and everyone’s voices being heard and accepted by the group. If group writing is pursued, then the therapist needs to organize the group in such a way so that turns are taken and everyone has ideas that are included in the lyrics.
The norms of the brainstorming process will need to be outlined and the group will need to understand and agree to participate in the process of cooperatively creating the rap.
Individual work is easier in that there is only one person telling a story, and thus a linear narrative can result. As with other forms of lyric writing, the therapist can facilitate the process, but must be aware that the client’s voice needs to remain the focus of the activity.
Preparation Required The therapist needs to prepare a rationale for using rap as a creative form of self-expression as well as a brief demonstration of the ease of rapping. Talking in rhythm to a beat track, therapists can demonstrate rapping by performing something as simple as a nursery rhyme (e.g., Mary Had A Little Lamb), or a few lines from a rap song.
things that clients have shared in session. Therapists may want to offer some suggestions for rap topics while reflecting on the thoughts and feelings that clients have expressed. Often clients do not know where to start, so offering a beginning line may help, as would the use of various other techniques such as filling in the blanks. Depending on the needs of the clients, therapists can offer a semi-structured activity, or one in which the clients provide all the content.
Therapists should review how to use a rhyming dictionary, as this can aid in the expression of ideas. Not knowing how to look up rhymes will make the process very slow. Finally, pens and paper are needed to write down the lyrics, and appropriate instrumentation is needed to provide rhythm tracks. The media and roles section above provides information on this topic.
Procedures Therapists can follow the preparation guidelines printed above. Clients can then choose a rhythm that they respond to on a keyboard or computer program. It might be helpful to limit the choices if there are too many or choosing a rhythm will be a long process. Therapists then discuss the issues that have been raised during previous session work with the clients and identify one that can be expanded on as a story or form of self-expression in the rap genre. If the clients are having difficulty beginning, therapists can offer a suggested opening line for them to complete. This process is continued until the clients think that the rap is finished. Clients may construct forms that follow a verse-chorus format, or they may use through-composition in which there are no defined structures within
the performance of the rap lyrics. It will take some rehearsal to find how the words fit into the rhythm. Clients may want to record their creation once it is finished.
Data Interpretation As with previous examples of lyric writing presented in this guide, clients should be the main interpreters of the meaning behind their creative process and content. If this method of lyric creation is used frequently, therapists may begin to observe patterns and indicators of change. These observations should be discussed with clients to obtain their input regarding the meaning they ascribe to what has been observed.
Client/Group-Therapist Dynamics As with any other written form, the words, thoughts and feelings that are presented must be those of the clients. When working with groups the therapist will need to set standards for participation and boundaries regarding the norms of behaviour.
Attributed to: John Downes Salient Features Playing a word association game may be a starting point for both discussion and lyric writing. Therapists can choose words that relate to client issues for their clients to associate to, or a generation program can be used, such as the one found at http://www.wordassociation.org/ Clinical Uses This approach to generating words is a fun way of finding a few germinal ideas for lyric writing. It may help break a tendency for reticence or when ideas are no longer flowing while writing song lyrics.
Client Prerequisites Clients need to be verbal and able to respond without thinking too much.
Clients need to be relaxed and able to share whatever comes to mind in response to the stimulus words.
Therapist Skills Therapists need to recognize the skills, abilities and deficits that clients may have with language. Choices for stimulus words need to provide some focus on a theme that has emerged in sessions or during songwriting. Therapists can use open questions and declarative probes to help clients expand on their ideas when debriefing the word association lists. Likely each word that clients give as an association to the stimulus word has a story behind it. It is the story that may be used for lyrical material.
1. To facilitate the generation of words that may help clients write lyrics for songs.
2. To help identify and clarify some issues raised in therapy or songwriting.
3. To participate in a fun activity that may increase creative responses.
Media and Roles A prepared word list is needed for this activity, or a visit to the word association game web site. Writing materials are required for this activity.
The role of the therapist is to provide the stimulus word list and help clients expand on their associations with more complex lyrical ideas. The role of clients is to respond to the stimulus words and the therapist’s questions so that new ideas can be produced for song lyrics.
Format This activity can be used in individual or group settings. When working with groups it would likely be best to do the activity by taking turns. In either setting the stimulus words and association words must be recorded so they can be used for reflection later on.
Preparation Required Therapists will need to prepare a theme-based stimulus word list, or find an appropriate web site that generates random words. All the words need to be recorded on paper, a flip chart, or a white board.
completed list with clients and obtain greater depth of meaning for each association. Clients are then encouraged to use any interesting or significant outcomes from this exercise in their songwriting work.