08 SES 11, New approaches to supporting mental health and wellbeing
Both educationalists and mental health practitioners are expressing concern across Europe about the mental health of children and young people. Children and young people who have experienced a range of early adverse childhood experiences are particularly vulnerable in school contexts and run the risk of social and educational exclusion. Their need for concerted professional help from both teachers and mental health practitioners has been the stimulus for this study (Day et al 2017)
The opportunity for this discussion arises in the final writing stages of a new Routledge publication (due Dec 2019) ‘Addressing mental health issues in schools through music and the arts’. This text reflects activities within a continuing strategic partnership (2015-2019) funded by the ERASMUS + foundation. The current project ‘Sustaining Teachers and Learners with the Arts; Relational Health in Schools’ (STALWARTS: 2017-1-UK01-KA203-036723) follows on from the previous project ’Learning in a New Key: Engaging Vulnerable Young People in School Education’ (LINK: 2015-1-UK01-KA201- 013752). This is rated 90% by the National Agency.
The paper presented here seeks to answer the main research question - To what extent do new collaborative and nonverbal music making activities, drawing on the work of music therapists introduced into classrooms, support vulnerable young people in developing well being.
As concerns for the mental health of children and young people in European schools grows, people are seeking deeper psychological insight to child development to understand the reasons for their emotional and social disturbance. Drawing on writing from psychologists Daniel Stern, Bruce Perry and Van Der Kolk it is understood that early adverse experience in life has a long term impact on development and the capacity to learn, known as developmental trauma. Van der Kolk maintains that the body holds the impact of early trauma and results in physical, emotional and social difficulties in later life. It is such symptoms that teachers are encountering in schools but without prior training related to these psychological impacts. Van Der Kolk recognises that the creative arts as non verbal approaches can relieve the symptoms of disorders related to earlier trauma (Van Der Kolk 2014).
This paper will present data collected in a residential special school in the UK during the LINK and STALWARTS projects. It will also draw upon the practice and perspectives of partners in the LINK project from Italy, Poland and Portugal. Music therapist and teachers worked together on an inter professional intervention in four classrooms to develop therapeutically adapted teaching practices through music and arts based activities. The responses of young people engaged in spontaneous musical improvisation, developed from turn taking and listening activities is documented in relation to aspects of mental health namely - how sensory engagement can support self regulation and how social group music making can encourage relational health. These two themes come together in an approach termed creative attachment therapy. This encourages a sense of playfulness and fun where the emotional tone of the context is one of positive acceptance. Dan Hughes advocates a relational attitude between adults and children characterised by playfulness, acceptance, curiosity, and empathy (PACE). Within the classroom teachers are able to promote a safe and relaxed environment where activities build upon the young person’s natural curiosity to share empathic creative expression. The inter professional approach enabled the creation of safe comfortable environments to encourage young people to engage in sensory musical experiences, relate to each other through non-verbal media and express themselves safely.
Teachers recognised that their therapeutically adapted teaching practices using music making in this way have been beneficial in addressing issues of mental health.
The study presented is an inter professional intervention where a trained music therapist working alongside the teacher with young people is able to share her knowledge and skills with teachers in the classroom. We will focus upon the introduction of free music making in the classroom known as improvisation that includes musical dialogue, call and responses, games involving taking turns and leading improvisations. The research presented here took place during the LINK and Stalwarts project in classrooms at a residential special school in the UK. The data presented is drawn from two sources of data - narrative accounts and observation schedules in each class. Teachers agreed to a six-week data collection period. Observers would work in four classrooms creating a narrative account of each session and recording Flow observations of two young people in each class immediately after every classroom session. Consent was obtained from young people and their parents/guardians for involvement in the project through sharing basic information about the project and asking for a signed proforma. The involvement of the young people in these discussions contributed to their valuing their own music making and recognising that others were also interested in it. An observational schedule was developed during the LINK project to measure the impact of nonverbal, collaborative music making on the mental health of young people. The tool originated from the work of Csikszentmihalyi (1996) to assess the optimal state of being, he called Flow. Addessi and her team (2015) developed his work to enable researchers to observe and measure the Flow experience in classrooms with young children engaged in active music making. Members of the LINK project team further developed the observation schedule for use in the classroom context drawing on early years education (Bertram & Pascal 2010), psychological insights (Daniel Stern 2010) and music therapy assessment processes (Outcomes Star 2015) to refine the categories for observation. Recognition of the work of Bruce Perry about the impact of creative experiences on brain development and healing led to specific insights about sensory engagement and relational health within the schedule. Data from this tool created a baseline that provides insights into young people’s changes of mood and improved social dispositions within the framework of a new classroom environment where dialogic music making is a possibility. Results using the Flow observation schedule will be presented together with extracts from narrative accounts that systematically document the practice in the classroom.
The data presented illustrates the impact of the music making intervention in three main themes drawing upon both narrative accounts of the music making sessions and the FLOW observation schedules. These provide data in some cases over a six week period so development and changes can be observed and evidenced. The themes that emerge in this study are firstly the impact upon young people’s capacity for self regulation, secondly their abilities to engage in nonverbal musical dialogue as a starting point for building relationships within the classroom and thirdly evidence of how music making within the social context of the classroom holds the potential to promote positive and healthy attachment patterns between peers and between young people and adults. It is argued that each of these themes relate to the general well being and mental health of the young people engaged in the project. What is challenging to evidence is whether the changes witnessed within these short music making sessions continue to be maintained after the sessions and into the future. Comments from the teachers indicates that the intervention is a useful ‘reset button’ in the classroom as it has the potential to alter the mood of young people and classroom atmosphere. Teachers have found this to be highly beneficial as a means to encourage young people's self regulation. A further aspect of this study seeks to identify specific areas of teachers’ competence related particularly to understanding the impact of a creative music making intervention on the mental health of young people. The paper will draw attention to the way that young people's experience of music can be measured and understood as having positive effects on their well being and mental health.
Accounting Early for Life Long Learning (AcE) project (2010) Bertram T & Pascal C see http://earlyyearssolutions.co.uk/ace_summary_23.html accessed 10.08.2016 Addessi, A R, Ferrari, L and Carugati, F (2015) The Flow Grid: A Technique for Observing and Measuring Emotional State in young children Interacting with a Flow Machine. Journal of New Music Research, DOI:10.1080/09298215.2014.991738 Csikszentmihalyi M (1996). Creativity: flow and the psychology of discovery and invention. USA: Harper-Collins Publishers Custodero, L.A. (1998). Observing flow in young children’s music learning. General Music Today, 12(1), 21-27. Day L, Blades R, Spence C, & Ronicle J (2017). Mental health services and schools link pilot evaluation. London: Department of Education, Government Social Research. Hendry A & Hasler J (2017) Creative Therapies for Complex Trauma: Helping Children and Families in Foster Care, Kinship Care or Adoption London: Jessica Kingsley Publications Golding K & Hughes D (2012) Creating loving attachments: parenting with PACE to nurture confidence and security in the troubled child London: Jessica Kingsley MacDonald & Wilson (2014) Musical improvisation and health: a review. Psychology of Well-Being: Theory, Research and Practice 2014, 4:20 http://www.psywb.com/content/4/1/20 MalchiodiC &Crenshaw D eds (2015) Creative Arts and Play Therapy for Attachment Problems Guilford Press Malloch, S. & Trevarthen, C. (2009),Communicative musicality: exploring the basis of human companionship,Oxford: Oxford University Press Outcomes Music Therapy Star see www.outcomesstar.org.uk accessed 16/08/2015 Perry B (2009) ‘Examining child maltreatment through a neurodevelopmenatal lens: Clinical applications of the neurosequential model of therapeutics’ in Journal of Loss and Trauma 14, pp240-255 Rickson D, & Skewes McFerran K (2014). Creating music cultures in the schools: A perspective from community music therapy. University Park, IL: Barcelona Publishers. Schore, J.R. & Schore, A.N (2008) Modern Attachment Theory: The Central Role of Affect Regulation in Development and Treatment in Clinical Social Work Journal, 36: 9-20). DOI 10.1007/s10615-007-0111-7 Stern, D.N. (2010) The issue of vitality. Nordic Journal of Music Therapy, 19 (2), 88-102 Solomon M F & Siegel D J (2003) Healing Trauma attachment, mind, body and brain NY: Norton Pubishers Van der Kolk B A (2014) The Body Keeps the Score: brain mind and body in the healing of trauma New York; Penguin Wigram T (2004). Improvisation: methods and techniques for music therapy clinicians, educators, and students, London/Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley Publishers
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