Developing a music therapy programme for young sex offenders in South Africa

Helen Oosthuizen (MMus (Music Therapy) [University of Pretoria, South Africa]; GIM Fellow (AMI)

The ‘Support Programme for Abuse Reactive Children’, was initiated by the Teddy Bear Clinic (an NPO established to protect abused children) in South Africa in response to the increase of child-on-child offenders in this country. This short-term programme aims to offer holistic rehabilitation to first time young sex offenders, and incorporates conventional diversion approaches alongside creative programmes, including group music therapy. This paper explores the development of the music therapy programme since 2006 – discussing helpful practical tools, underlying approaches and considering challenges and learnings through the process.

The paper will include a presentation of the music therapist’s work based on the music therapist’s personal reflections, session notes and relevant literature. There may be time for discussion and sharing of work within similar contexts or with similar client groups.

  • Considering music therapy groups for young offenders situated within a broader programme (including collaboration with relevant professionals who may have little understanding of music therapy)
  • Implementing a treatment plan for young sex offenders that is relevant and context-sensitive, based on literature and experience
  • Setting objectives that young sex offenders can implement beyond the music therapy space
  • Modifying treatment programmes as relevant based on ongoing documentation and research
  • Despite the potential value of music therapy work with young sex offenders, there is a paucity of literature published within this area, suggesting that this offers an important addition to the profession of music therapy.
  • This music therapy project is situated within the ‘unique’ South African context, and as such includes consideration of additional aspects such as working cross-racially, cross-culturally, across languages and genders, often with clients from under-resourced communities. In this way the paper offers a broader reflection of struggles and possibilities underlying music therapy work when considered with sensitivity to context.

Helen Oosthuizen is a registered music therapist and GIM Fellow in South Africa. Her clinical practice includes working with groups of young sex offenders. Helen has published book chapters and journal articles, serves on the editorial board of Voices and is a part-time supervisor for Music Therapy Master’s students at Pretoria University.

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