Spiritual science therapy

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In 1958 in United Kingdom, Paul Nordoff and Clive Robbins paired up and developed a creative music therapy approach based on anthroposophical concepts. Improvisational music was used to help children with multiple disabilities. In the 1960’s, they began to spread this approach to all around United Kingdom, Europe America, New Zealand and Australia. In the 1980’s, the Nordoff-Robbins’s training reached the University of Herdecke at the same time when Mary Priestley was giving her training on Analytical Music Therapy. Herdecke was also the place where one of the earliest anthroposophical hospital started. These various streams merging at Herdecke gave a strong impulse to the development of anthroposophical music therapy. These pioneers were very influential in the development of music therapy in West Germany. (Wheeler 2015)      

The following paragraphs provide an overview of current anthroposophical music therapy and is referenced from the book “Musik in Pädagogik und Therapie” (2004) edited by Gerhard Beilharz, a leading anthroposophical music therapist in Germany.   

Music therapy can be considered as a form of psychotherapy, therapy for the soul at the nonverbal level that goes right into the body. It is a combination of free play and directed exercise. In free play form, the therapist will follow the child’s own will. In therapy, the inner world of feelings of the individual is mirrored in music and the therapist has to find an access point into this world for treatment.  

The therapy process begins with diagnosis by collecting perceptions and gathering background on the individual. In a systematic way, the therapist will discover the area or areas in the individual that need to be supported in therapy.

Following are some questions that the therapist will consider:

– how does the individual make music?

– how experienced is the individual in making music?

– what connections the individual has with melody, harmony and rhythm?

When the individual can observe himself or herself in the musical element during therapy, it will bring about self knowledge and the possibility of change. This is an integration process where the patient can be more whole than before. Therapy is not about creating art but rather to help the individual connect with the artistic process towards wholeness. To connect with the artistic process and to have the self-awareness during therapy, all the senses of the individual need to be engaged. For instance, the eye-hand coordination and sense of balance when playing the instrument during therapy. In this active therapy of music making with the therapist, the individual’s senses are connected with their inner activity and this gives the possibility to express their inner experience. A connection is made between music, feeling and movement. When these 3 elements are in alignment, there is a very good possibility of expression during therapy. This process also supports the various senses to work together and be integrated. Following is an example used in a hospital setting by music therapist Joke Bradt:

“Dr. Bradt asked each child to select from a variety of musical instruments and mimic what pain might sound like. She asked them, “Which of these instruments sound most like the pain you’re having right now? Does your pain have a beat? How strong/ intense is your pain right now?”. Bradt improvised around those sounds and asked the child to suggest modifications to create sounds that were more resonant with the sensation of pain. Once the child agreed that the sound match was accurate, Bradt attempted to improvise sounds that soothed, or represented “pain-healing sounds.” She played with these new sounds and instruments until the child agreed that the effect was soothing”. (Hanser 2016)

Music creates a special space that supports free expression. The border between inside and outside of the soul is loosening from the physical body and new integration processes are made possible. Music therapy works at the level of thinking, feeling, willing, psychological and vital forces, between conscious and unconscious psychological experiences as well as between different senses.

Music therapy is a kind of illness prevention as well. In the healing process, one needs both medical and therapeutic help. The impulse towards health needs to arise from one’s own will and cannot be forced upon from the outside Music therapy can be used to support the will of the individual to change. In this change, the personality has a chance to develop further. 

Following are general steps taken in the anthroposophical music therapy process:

– diagnosis

– formulate the direction of treatment

– doing the treatment

– evaluation and writing a report

These are outer states of a therapeutic process. The patient undergoes inner steps of development in this process. Detailed and clear observation is needed to determine the needs of the individual and what can meet the needs effectively.  

There has to be a good balance of rational thinking and intuition during therapy. The rational aspect is stronger in diagnostics. There is more intuitive element during the actual treatment for eg what instrument and musical elements to use. Deep listening and observation are important to determine the impulses coming from the individual and the developmental direction that he or she would like to take. When intuition is given space to flourish, the therapeutic process gains depth. A critical review is useful after the therapy as a reflection to give the possibility of change in the therapeutic process to better support the individual.  

In the diagnostics, it is important to have a rich image of the individual built by perceptions of what the problem is. The musical medium is chosen and there is a question if the individual in his or her subjective experience can accept the musical instrument and elements chosen. The musical instrument becomes effective when the will of the individual can connect with it. This is a research process to find together with the individual which musical elements connect best with him or her. The therapist should proceed with the actual treatment in a meditative and intuitive manner towards the individual rather than rigidly following a formulaic process.

When there is a team of therapists to work on the same individual, then everyone can contribute their own observations which can give a well-rounded image of the individual and helps in the inspiration to search for what to do in the actual treatment.

The soul is always singing, playing and improvising. It needs to be set free, has an outward expression, being creative, have fun and enjoy. Music can give structure to the soul processes which are out of balance and bring them into balance again.


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