Singing Supervision: Free Associative Singing to Address Issues in Clinical Practice

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Image of music therapist Dr. Diane Austin

The focus of singing supervision is to address the complexities involved in helping music therapists in their development as depth-oriented clinicians. Issues like resistance, transference and countertransference are addressed through vocal psychotherapy and in particular free associative singing. In its simplest form “free associative singing” involves the client singing a word or phrase and the therapist mirroring (repeating) the words and the melody back to the client over a consistent, repetitive two-chord pattern. This improvisational structure emphasizes the creation of a predictable secure environment that enables music therapists to feel safe enough to question the ways they use musical and verbal interventions in their work and their own role in the therapeutic relationship. “Doubling” is used in free-associative singing to deepen the process of self-inquiry and to examine countertransference in particular. When the therapist “doubles”, she sings as the inner voice of the music therapist and uses first person (“I”). Free associative singing is an effective way for music therapists everywhere who seek the use of their own modality in the supervision process. A musical case example will be used to illustrate the above.

Learner Objectives

1. Describe Free Associative Singing

2. Define Countertransference

3. List 3 ways the “Double” was used in the Case Study.

Presenter Biography

Dr. Diane Austin, DA, LCAT (she/her) is the Director of the Music Psychotherapy Center in NYC, NY, where she has maintained a private practice in Vocal Psychotherapy, in-depth psychotherapy, and supervision for more than 40 years. She is an adjunct associate professor at New York University in the graduate music therapy department. She developed vocal psychotherapy and has taught post-master’s distance training programs in vocal psychotherapy internationally.