Healing Childhood Trauma through Music and Play: Nordoff-Robbins Monograph Series, Volume 6

  • Healing Childhood Trauma through Music and Play: Nordoff-Robbins Monograph Series, Volume 6
  • Author: Birnbaum, Jacqueline
  • E-ISBN: 9781937440343

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Melanie, adopted from China at 16 months, was four years old when she came to the Nordoff-Robbins Center for Music Therapy. She had significant developmental delays and suffered from night terrors and fears of abandonment. After two years in group therapy, she began individual music therapy to better address her emotional needs. This fascinating case study, with 29 video excerpts, examines Melanie’s seven-year course of therapy.  Through singing and instrumental and dramatic play—first with toy dinosaurs and then stuffed bears, which she brought from home each week—Melanie expresses her internal struggles: Will I be abandoned again? Am I worthy of someone’s love? Where do I fit in? What kind of person do I want to be? She uses her blossoming musical gifts to give voice to her conflicts as she searches for her identity—singing about how lonely it is to be an only child, for example, or improvising piano pieces to portray her different moods.

 The author integrates concepts from the realms of play therapy, attachment theory, trauma theory, and intersubjectivity to understand Melanie’s creative journey. Guided by Melanie’s needs and interests, the author draws on her own experience of early childhood trauma to fully enter Melanie’s world of play. Grounded in a relational intersubjective model, therapist and client form a trusting partnership, based on the therapist’s ability to understand and respond effectively to that client’s unique needs. The psychotherapeutic process is seen as a mutually influencing relationship: we impact our clients unconsciously, and they impact us in a constant loop of influence. Melanie and the author developed a close and complex interpersonal and musical relationship. As Melanie herself said as therapy was drawing to an end: “I’m going to cry when we say goodbye…It’s like my second home here.”

Table of Contents

 Meeting Melanie

Group Music Therapy: Years 1 and 2

Beginning Individual Therapy

My Story

Attachment Theory and Trauma

Getting Mad

Beginning Year 2 of Individual Therapy

Music Therapy and Play Therapy

Stories of Conflict

Intersubjectivity Theory and Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy

Individual Therapy: Year 3

Year 4 of Individual Therapy: Resolving Conflicts

Our Last Year: Moving On