Music therapy program for at risk students

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1 Project report for: Music therapy program for at risk students Funded by: Daystar Foundation From: Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy Australia and James Meehan High School July June 2009

2 Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy Australia page 2 Introduction Project Objective The objective of this project is to use creative music therapy to bring positive change and practical assistance to school students experiencing significant difficulties educationally and/or socially. Music therapy is offered individually or in small groups. Goals and strategies are tailored to the needs of each student. Project period 2 therapists for ½ day per week for 12 months (July 2008 June 2009). Project team Annette Delvecchio, Registered Music Therapist (2009) Rob Devlin, Registered Music Therapist (2008/09) Joanne McIntyre, Registered Music Therapist (2008) Iani Constable, Project Manager/Clinical Services Manager Project partners This project is a partnership between Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy Australia (NRMTA) and James Meehan High School, Macquarie Fields, whereby NRMTA provides music therapy for selected students from James Meehan High School. NRMTA is a registered charity committed to promoting and developing the understanding, training and practice of creative music therapy. Its work is directed through the Golden Stave Music Therapy Centre (GSMTC) at Kingswood, which was established in 2001 in partnership with the University of Western Sydney. The Centre is dedicated to bringing creative music therapy to the community by providing a clinic, training facilities, outreach programs and research/education facilities. James Meehan High School is a 7 12 comprehensive school of 430 students. It includes a Special Education Unit comprised of 2 x IM, 2 x IO and 2 x ED classes. Approximately 38% of the students come from NESB backgrounds, with the largest groups coming from the Pacific Islands. The school also has 40 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. Most of the students come from the Macquarie Fields Housing Estate. The school is supported by the Priority Schools Program which provides additional support to improve the literacy and numeracy outcomes and participation of students from low socio economic areas. The school has developed strong partnerships with a wide range of community agencies. Project Rationale Generally, music therapy with adolescents can be effective as follows: it being a non-verbal, non-intrusive means of communication and expression it offers a platform for enabling and increasing verbal communication (either in the music therapy session or in the school environment) it increases self-esteem and learning by providing individually adjusted experiences of success and achievement (Sausser & Waller, 2005) it increases social engaging behaviours when used in group settings (Sausser & Waller, 2005)

3 Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy Australia page 3 it offers a different, more playful and less compulsory environment, increasing the willingness and openness of the involved adolescent(s) (Hendricks and Bradley, 2005) it offers flexibility, making it possible to adjust the therapy to an individual s needs (Gold et al., 2004) As an intrinsically non-verbal way of communication, music therapy has great potential for all persons that are not able or willing to communicate verbally (Gold et al., 2004). Seeing adolescence as a transitional phase of communication, in which verbal communication about feelings can be problematical, music therapy bridges a gap between nonverbal communication and talking (Wells, 1988). Creative music therapy is structured flexibly in order to adjust to an individual s needs a vital component to success (Gold et al., 2004). Creative music therapy particularly emphasises the use of improvisation to build relationships and enhance communication (M van de Watering 2006). Creative music therapy is employed in either individual or group settings. Individual music therapy is used for initial assessment, work continues individually or in groups depending on the student s needs. The work in groups can play a large role in developing awareness of social processes, expressing feelings in social context and enhancing self-esteem (Skewes, 2001). Focusing on students that are experiencing unsuccessful outcomes within the education system may help reduce the magnitude of many social problems in the future. Music therapy can motivate academic growth. Literature indicates that skills and abilities learned through the discipline of music may transfer to study skills, communication skills and cognitive skills. Project Report The students James Meehan High School referred a number of students from their ED Unit. These students have diagnosed mental health issues and receive the maximum support in the school with a teacher student ratio of 1:7. All of the students referred to music therapy are between years old and had been diagnosed with a behaviour and/or emotional disorder, including Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Depression, Oppositional Defiance Disorder, Conduct Disorder. These disorders often led the students to inappropriate behaviour, aggression and antisocial behaviour. Some of the students are on medication prescribed specifically to address the behavioural problems. The therapists visited the school to assess the suitability of students for the project. This involved observation of student s interactions and discussion with their teacher. Through this assessment and subsequent discussion with the Head Teacher, students were selected for the project. The sessions The music therapy sessions were conducted once weekly during school terms 3 & 4, 2008 and terms 1 & 2, The students travelled with their teachers from James Meehan High School, Macquarie Fields to the Golden Stave Music Therapy Centre (GSMTC), Penrith. Both individual and small group sessions were employed. Music therapy goals The objective of this project is to use creative music therapy to bring positive change and practical assistance to school students experiencing significant difficulties educationally and/or socially. To achieve this, the therapists focused on the following goals:

4 Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy Australia page 4 1. Increasing each student s success in forming relationships - between student & therapist; student and teacher; between the students themselves. 2. Building or strengthening each student s experience of a. self-regulation, b. listening and concentration, c. expressing emotions/feelings d. self-esteem and self-confidence 3. Increasing the students social skills in areas of tolerance and co-operation The music therapy intervention The music therapy intervention either included active listening or active participation in musical interaction through playing a variety of instruments such as the guitar (acoustic, electric, bass), drums, piano and using music-editing software such as Garage Band. The musical interaction used pre-composed music (e.g. including rock and pop genre songs familiar to students), or improvised music. The therapists have used improvised music extensively and students have shown enormous creativity in their musical explorations - embracing most challenges presented them. The students development over the past year The students development has been very encouraging. The therapists have observed: Goal 1: Increasing each student s success in forming relationships - between student & therapist; student and teacher; between the students themselves. Development: A growing sense of trust between the therapists and the students from week to week. The students are starting to talk more, express their opinions and state their musical preferences. They have also been observed to be smiling and laughing more, all good signs that they are beginning to trust the music therapists. There is also a sense that the students are more trusting of one another, as evidenced by subtle musical interplay between them when playing as a group. Students who have continued from 2008 have accepted new students into the group. While some students are no longer attending from last year, the students are now able to cope more readily with change and there is a high degree of group cohesion. Goal 2 Building or strengthening each student s experience of a. self-regulation, b. listening and concentration, c. expressing their emotions/feelings d. self-esteem and self-confidence Development: The therapists have observed some development in the students ability to self-regulate. Observable differences have been seen in the quality of listening to the therapists and to each other during music-making. Students ability to follow musical instructions also increased. There is an increase in the length of time students were able to concentrate and maintain focus during sessions. All of the students involved, without exception, have shown musical sensitivity to different degrees. Some have fully embraced the opportunity to explore their musical personalities and

5 Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy Australia page 5 have grabbed every chance to experiment with different musical ideas and instruments. The opportunities to perform solos have given encouragement for individual self-expression. All have exhibited creativity in different forms, including great skill in drumming, beat-boxing, piano playing, cello playing and guitar strumming. The students are becoming more confident in their musical abilities. This has manifested itself in more confident playing and a heightened sense of music as a tool for communication. There have been some very special moments of extraordinary creativity and an uncovering of some unexpected skills in each student. Goal 3 Increasing the students social skills in the areas of tolerance and co-operation Development: Within the music therapy setting, there has been a growing respect and tolerance between students both in a musical setting and also in their general interactions with others during the sessions. From similar projects conducted previously, NRMTA learnt that the benefit of music therapy is often an unfolding even long term - process. Previous projects indicated that much development is shown in the early stages for therapy, then the development often plateaus before the long term effects begins to emerge (between 6 months to 1 year of regular sessions). This too was observed in the development of the students from James Meehan. Initially the students were quiet, shy, anxious and at times quite flat in their affect. Marked changes were seen in the behaviour of the students in the initial few sessions and they progressed very quickly. However, halfway through this school term 4, the students began to show more challenging behaviours. The sessions became louder and at times appeared more chaotic. This is actually an indication of a developing relationship with the music and with the therapists. This is a phase that takes some focussed and concentrated effort to get through. When the project began, the therapists provided motivation and structured material for the boys to work with. As the project progressed, the therapists were able to change the approach from directive to collaborative. This may indicate that the students were beginning to do their own work and to take some responsibility for their own progress. This year marked changes were observed in the continuing students ability to transition into the new school year. This involved accepting some changes including the addition of a new music therapist to the program. The level of cooperation with the new music therapist has been very encouraging and has been indicative of their greater ability to tolerate change. As the project has progressed into its third and fourth terms, the therapists have continued moving their approach from directive to collaborative. The students have responded to the greater levels of freedom provided in the sessions, exhibiting creativity and self-expression in a supportive environment. Extending the developments achieved in music therapy into the classroom Teachers from James Meehan High School have noticed an improvement in the students attendance especially on Mondays when they attend music therapy sessions. All usually arrive early on those days and are generally excited to go. Students are staying on task longer and they have noticed an improvement in the quality of the work that their students are producing. A marked improvement has been made in the development of the self esteem of some of the students. Comments from the teacher s project evaluation forms * Music Therapy sessions promote co-operation amongst the students

6 Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy Australia page 6 * Improves attendance as students look forward to going to the sessions. * Allows students to use and experience instruments and music that they would not normally have access to. * Promotes an activity that the students can feel successful at and have a sense of achievement. * Builds confidence and self-esteem * Students have developed new friendships through music * Some students have discovered hidden talents. * Music Therapy sessions have allowed students to develop their musical preferences. D s attitude has improved positively. He looks forward to music therapy sessions and enjoys working with the therapists. J has displayed an increased level of self-confidence. S has shown a keen interest in music therapy sessions. He particularly enjoys the drums. b s self-confidence has improved this term. He is now attending reward programs when usually he avoids these activities. Conclusion This project has demonstrated that music therapy can offer adolescents a means of non-verbal communication and expression, opening up ways for achieving greater educational and social functioning. The music therapy evaluations reveal an increase in musical relating on average of 33% and of musical communicativeness on average 12.5%. In terms of teacher evaluation music therapy has addressed the academic areas most effectively (average increase of 16% followed by social development (average increase of 7%)). The period that the students from James Meehan High School attended music therapy at the Golden Stave Music Therapy Centre, has been eventful, challenging, rewarding and motivating. Change and progress have occurred and with continued music therapy interventions, further change and progress in the behaviour and emotional issues of each student is predicted to continue. NRMTA and James Meehan High School sincerely thank the Daystar Foundation for their generous funding of this important work in shaping the lives of these at risk adolescents, and we hope to continue our association for many years in the future. Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy Australia and James Meehan High School 5th August 2009 References Gold, C., Voracek, M., Wigram, T. (2004): Effects of music therapy for

7 Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy Australia page 7 children and adolescents with psychopathology: a meta-analysis, Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, Vol.45, pp Hendricks, C. B., Bradley, L. J. (2005): Interpersonal Theory and Music Techniques: A Case Study for a Family With a Depressed Adolescent, The Family Journal, Vol. 13, pp Sausser, S., Waller, R. J. (2005): A model for music therapy with students with emotional and behavioral disorders, The Arts in Psychotherapy, in press. Skewes, K. (2001): The Experience of Group Music Therapy for Six Bereaved Adolescents, Doctoral Dissertation, University of Melbourne, Australia. Watering, M. (2006): The Effects of Music Therapy on Adolescents with Depression resulting from Role Transitions and Grief. Music in Modern Society. Wells, N. F. (1988): An individual music therapy assessment procedure for emotionally disturbed young adolescents, The Arts in Psychotherapy, Vol. 15, pp Appendix Data analysis July 2008 June 2009 Nine students participated in the program at various times during this period. 1. Music Therapy Evaluation Nordoff-Robbins Evaluation Scale Child-Therapists Relationship on Musical Co-activity (Scale of 1 7): average increase 1.1 from 3.3 to 4.4 = increase of 33% Nordoff-Robbins Evaluation Scale Musical Communicativeness (on the scale of 1 7): average increase 0.5 from 4.0 to 4.5 = increase of 12.5% 2. Teacher observation Scale from 1 5 (1 = very poor to 5 = very good)

8 Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy Australia page 8 Academic: 1. Ability to listen in class: average increase of 0.6 in score from 2.7 to 3.3 = 22% 2. Ability to focus on learning task: increase of 0.3 in score from 2.8 to 3.2 = 11% 3. Ability to focus independently after distraction: increase of 0.5 in score = from 2.2 to 2.7 =23% 4. Ability to follow instructions: no change, remains at 3 5. Academic achievement: increase of 0.3 in score from 2.3 to 2.6 = 13%

9 Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy Australia page 9 6. Confidence to contribute verbally in classroom activities: increase of 0.3 in score from 2.7 to 2.9 =11% Social Development: 7. Ability to cooperate with teachers in class: increase of 0.1 in score from 3.2 to 3 = 3% 8. Ability to cooperate with peers in class: increase of 0.1 in score from 2.7 to 2.8 = 3.7% 9. Level of care, concern & respect for self and others: increase of 0.4 in score from 2.3 to 2.7 = 17%

10 Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy Australia page Level of self-esteem: a decrease of -0.3 in score = from 2.5 to 2.2.

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