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Leen Adam, Katrien Foubert, & Jos De Backer. Adolescents with Intellectual Disabilities and their Siblings: the Musical Relationship.

The impact of adolescents with Intellectual Disabilities on family life has been widely researched. Where in music therapy with people with Intellectual Disabilities the focus is usually on (the creative resources of) the individuals themselves or their parents, the perspective of the siblings is often overlooked. The sibling relationship, however, is important because during adolescence, peer interactions in this relationship co-shape the identity. Encouraging adolescents to utilize their creativity is crucial in interaction with their siblings. 

To understand the role music therapy could play in supporting and facilitating this creativity in the sibling relationship, this research study aims (i) to identify musical interventions that foster/facilitate creative interactions between siblings and (ii) to understand barriers that hinder the creative potential of sibling interactions. Within the framework of a music project centered around improvisation and playing together, this study aims to delineate and understand musical interventions that facilitate interactions between youths with Intellectual Disabilities and their siblings. This research will scrutinize the efficacy of specific interventions through the examination of pertinent case studies.

This will be illustrated with the case study of Thomas, an 18-year-old man with an Intellectual Disability, living in a group home and enrolled in a special education program. Thomas actively engages in the music project alongside his 16-year-old sister Emma. During the sessions, exploring, improvising and playing together are the focal point. In the analysis, emphasis will be placed on the sister’s experiences during the project, on the emerging improvisational musical elements and on exploring the working method and the therapist’s interventions during the music sessions.  
With this case study, an impetus is given to develop a music-based support program to facilitate the creative relationship between siblings.

Stella Canonico. Musical Improvisation in Sound Dialogue as a Phenomenological Expression of the Individual Norm of the Subject with Deafness and Hearing Loss.

This presentation analyzes the philosophical-epistemological perspectives opened by the application of musical improvisation in Humanistic Music Therapy with children with deafness and hearing loss. It aims to highlight how this practice enables us to think of a therapeutic subject who may not refer to the medico-social categories of norm and normality.

The analysis intends to focus on sound dialogue, the pivotal instrument of humanistic music therapy. The music therapist places the deaf or hearing-impaired child on the sound box of the piano in order to capture his/her spontaneous gestures, transpose them into music by improvising on the piano and initiate a sound-physical dialogue aimed at eliciting new behavioural responses in the subject. Childrens thus learn to perceive and discern the frequencies of music through their whole body and to speak with minimal degrees of deficit.

The sound dialogue analysis through Maurice Merleau-Ponty's phenomenology allows us to highlight the perspectives opened up on the subject by this use of improvisation. According to the philosopher, the subject learns primarily through bodily action that is structured around a subjective norm. This is a specific way of learning that takes shape, and likewise is shaped, in subject's habits and actions . This norm does not describe the content learned, but – in the Gestalt sense – the form and structure of learning, the expression in the world and its perception. For this reason it is an individual norm, but not in a relativistic sense. 

By not referring to pre-established theoretical and practical models, the use of the musical improvisation in the sound dialogue seems to put Merleau-Ponty's theories into practice, opening up the possibility of thinking about normative categories of the subject of therapy, which, being able to take shape from its specificity, need not refer to the categories of the so-called “normed” subject.

Marta Lissoni, Agostino Longo, Mirko Maddaleno, & Leonardo Mariotti. Body and Flow in Improvisation.

The proposed workshop aims to offer participants an experiential and reflective space to support the understanding of some elements of improvisation such as musical spontaneity, intuition, improvisational flow, highlighting and deepening the aspects that can determine its transformation within music therapy sessions.
Highlighting the importance of awareness of the present moment, we aim to 
reflect and experience some particular mechanisms concerning the sharing of the musical experience in music therapy and the relationship between two improvising subjects.

Becky Lockett. Engaging with the Learning Methods of Improvisation: Developing your Improvisation and Creativity Skills in Music.

In this workshop we will explore three specific methods of learning to improvise: using visual prompts, shapes and patterns to elicit creative and musical ideas; developing memorisation skills as a music therapist, how a repertoire of memorised musical ‘referents’ (Pressing, 1984) can help build confidence and fluidity of improvising; and moving with instruments, considering embodiment and relationship to instruments as objects. This workshop will be highly practical and encourage the music therapist to explore and expand on different methods of developing their improvisation skills. Through a series of practical exercises, experimentation and dialogue will be encouraged. Participants are asked to bring their own instruments, but a small selection will also be supplied. The material in this workshop draws on the recent PhD study, ‘Learning to Improvise: The Lived Experience of Music and Music Therapy Students’ (Lockett, 2023). 

Ieva Langaite. Family Music Therapy for Adolescents in Psychiatric Care.

The Psychiatric Ward for infants, children, and adolescents of the Hospital UZ Brussel works with adolescents and their families with various non-verbal mediums, such as art, drama, hippo, movement, dance, and of course music therapy. Different non-verbal therapists and a family therapist work together to discover and develop methods to include and support the family system of the adolescents. 

In my presentation I will use case studies to illustrate how a music therapist can create a safe and playful space for families to reconnect and interact with each other through improvisation. I hope to demonstrate that music itself becomes the primary tool for families to be able to hear one another, and to hear their family’s dynamics through music, facilitating deeper connections. I will highlight how a music therapist, together with the input of a broader team, designs and adapts sessions to fit the specific needs of a family, such as improving communication, facilitating mutual attunement, and exploring new ways of relating to each other.

In addition, I will speak about the role of a music therapist and their interdisciplinary team in these transformative sessions. In a field where this topic is underrepresented, I aim to spark discussion, exchange methods, encourage research, and inspire fellow practitioners to involve the entire family in music therapy for adolescents.

Jingwen Zhang, Helen Shoemark, Gayle DeDe, & Wendy Magee. The Role of Microanalysis in Developing an Improvised Generative Speech Protocol for People with Aphasia: Music Enriched Verb Network Strengthening Treatment (MeVNeST).

A transdisciplinary, theory-based, highly structured improvised singing protocol, the Music enhanced Verb Network Strengthening Treatment (MeVNeST), designed to enhance the Verb Network Strengthening Treatment (VNeST; Edmond, 2016) was developed (Zhang, 2022).

To develop MeVNeST, the standard VNeST procedures were adapted to incorporate music components based on the theoretical premises for music and language in the brain, theories of musical expectation (Lerdahl & Krumhansl, 2007), and two frameworks for music-based intervention protocol development (Robb et al., 2011; Hanson-Abromeit, 2015). The feasibility and the preliminary outcomes of MeVNeST were evaluated in a multiple-baseline across-subject design. The microanalysis of the music data revealed that patterns of music interaction, called Patterns of Musical Influence (PMI), underpinned how the key musical components in the therapists’ improvised music influenced participants’ improvised singing. Musical strategies named Structuring Strategies and Cueing Strategies clarified the therapists’ musical strategies to facilitate participants’ performance of language tasks that were difficult. The MeVNeST protocol was revised based on the findings. This presentation intends to discuss and highlight the essential role of microanalysis in developing and evaluating the improvisation-based intervention, MeVNeST.

Andreas Nollet, Jos De Backer, & Katrien Foubert. Mapping Improvisational Music Therapy Interventions for the Treatment of Aggression.

The phenomenon of aggression is a complex issue posing various therapeutic challenges, often being present in hard-to-reach populations with a high risk of therapeutic disengagement. In recent years, improvisational music therapy (IMT) presents itself as a valuable asset in navigating these challenges, although research concerning this topic remains relatively fragmented. This leads to a disparity between peer-reviewed scientific literature and knowledge which remains relegated to clinical practice and grey literature. In order to address this issue, a scoping review was conducted to map the broad landscape of IMT interventions used in the treatment of aggression in adults and adolescents. 

This presentation will explore the results of the scoping review, focusing on three areas: (1) the contexts and populations in which improvisational music therapy is used to treat aggression; (2) the characteristics of the IMT interventions as they appear within these different contexts; and (3) the potential mechanisms of change underlying the interventions, including an analysis of the different themes that emerged from the data. These emergent themes include the importance of music as a safe space for positive experiences, and the link between aggression as an embodied phenomenon and the music therapeutic relationship. Results from the conducted review reveal a large variety in clinical practice, highlighting both the flexibility of music therapy and the lack of specificity present in the source material.

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