What is Family Music Therapy?
Carol Ann Blank, LCAT, LPC, MMT, MT-BC
That is the first question that I’ve had to wrestle with in my research on clinical decision making in family music therapy (FMT). And, like most researchers, I have come to realize that the first question acts as the gateway to many other questions. I’ll talk a bit in this blog about how I became interested in the question about family music therapy. In later blog posts, I’ll share some of my other questions with you. My session for OCMT will address what the music therapy literature says about family music therapy, and how family music therapy with young children is practiced. I hope you can join me for that!
When I became a mother, I had already been a board-certified music therapist for quite a while. While I was pregnant, I felt pretty confident in my ability to use music as part of my parenting tools. I knew that singing to my child helped us to bond. Singing is a phenomenon the world over. I knew music would provide a gateway into all kinds of learning.
So, I was feeling confident and empowered with all my knowledge. That is, until I actually had my child in my arms. Pretty much all my confidence evaporated once sleep deprivation took over. And I felt pretty terrible about how badly I thought I was doing as a parent.
On the recommendation of someone I respected, I enrolled us, my baby and me, in a Music Together Babies Class at the Princeton, NJ Lab School. This probably was the most important parenting decision I made that first year of motherhood. The teacher, Dr. Lili Levinowitz, created a welcoming space for us (all mothers) to experience our children in a relaxed, musically rich, non-performance oriented environment. She taught us what our baby’s vocalizations meant. We learned how to watch for our infant’s characteristic gestures in the presence of music. These were ways our babies were communicating with us, and we were learning how to understand their language. Best of all, Dr. Levinowitz explained that we could continue this reciprocal (and musical) relationship of exploring and experimenting together at home.
All of a sudden I had a better understanding of my child’s world. The world of a very young child is all sensation and sound and rhythm. As a result, I had a whole new set of tools for parenting, and, better yet, much more confidence. Our ability to join with our very young children in this sensory-full world is important to their emerging sense of themselves. Music is a very real part of process of how the parent-child relationship emerges.
This led me to my first question: “What is family music therapy?” I was, and still am, curious about music therapy’s role in helping to create healthy parent-child relationships. What do you think? I’d love to hear from you; feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for reading.