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The Drumming/Improvisation Treatment Group Model

Watson (2002) created the Drumming/Improvisation Treatment Group Model, which was developed based on the work of Loth (1996) and Reuer and colleagues (1999).This is a particularly appropriate intervention for children and adolescents at risk. Loth used improvisation music therapy groups in a forensic setting to a) provide opportunities for self-expression, b) decrease denial of feelings associated with the client’s offenses, c) decrease denial of uncomfortable or difficult feelings, d) provide an opportunity for a cathartic release of tensions in a safe environment and e) provide a sense of control through decision making.

The objectives of the drumming improvisation treatment group model include:

Watson (2002) suggests four reasons as to why this model is an effective intervention. Firstly, response to rhythm is a basic human behaviour which increases motivation to participate. Secondly, a strong sense of belonging and group identity is created through drumming activities thus providing support for members who experience isolation and marginalisation as well as providing group members with an alternate means of peer-relating. Thirdly, as percussion activities require no previous musical experience all group members can participate equally and, finally, drumming/improvisation activities are culturally diverse and inclusive.

Community music therapy

Community Music Therapy is an approach to working musically with people in context, acknowledging the social and cultural factors of their health, illness, relationships and music. It reflects the essentially communal reality of musicking and is a response both to overly individualized treatment models and to the isolation people often experience within society.

In practice Community Music Therapy encourages music therapists to think of their work as taking place along a continuum ranging from the individual to the communal. The aim is to help clients access a variety of musical situations, and to accompany them as they move between ‘therapy’ and wider social contexts of musicking, including performances in public arenas.

Ansdell (2002) highlights a distinction between traditional music therapy approaches and Community Music Therapy. Traditional approaches work in a limited and protected manner, the work being mostly in private therapy rooms. These working practices are based mainly on psychoanalytic theoretical assumptions, including:

The Community Music Therapist typically works wherever music or music making is needed and, as Ansdell states: “The work can be ‘closed-door work’, where a protected space is needed for the client. But, more commonly, there is an ‘open-door’ approach, with a natural yet safe ‘permeability’ to the therapeutic frame, the safety residing as much with the therapist as with the ‘space’. The underlying belief in this approach is that the people with whom music therapists work primarily live in circumstantial communities of some sort (hospitals, clinics, schools etc.), where people’s health and illness is located between and amongst the personal, social, communal and institutional context in which they find themselves” (Ansdell 2002, p.29).

As such, Community Music Therapy involves extending the role, aims and possible sites of work for music therapists, not just transporting conventional Music Therapy approaches into communal settings. This will involve re-thinking not only the relationship between the individual and the communal in Music Therapy, but also taking into account how physical surroundings, client preferences and cultural contexts shape the work (Ansdell, 2002)

Stige (2002) does not regard community music therapy as a new paradigm but considers community music therapy as a concern with real world challenges, related to questions such as "What is the relationship between music therapy, community, and society?"

Stige (2002) further regards community music therapy as something that is closer to an area of practice and cites Kenneth Bruscia (1998a, p. 157), who defines an area of practice in the following way: "An area of practice is defined by what the primary clinical focus is, or what is the foreground of concern for the client, the therapist, and clinical agency" (Stige 2002, p.1). He continues by specifying that of particular relevance are: the priority health concern of the client and of the agency serving the client, the goal of the music therapist, and the nature of the client-therapist relationship.” Stige (2002) offers a definition of community music therapy which is drawn from Culture-Centered Music Therapy (Stige, 2002):

Community music therapy practices are linked to the local communities in which clients live and therapists work, and/or to communities of interest. Basically two main notions of community music therapy exist: a) music therapy in a community context, and b) music therapy for change in a community. Both notions require that the therapist be sensitive to social and cultural contexts, but the latter notion to a more radical degree departs from conventional modern notions of therapy in that goals and interventions relate directly to the community in question. Music therapy, then, may be considered as cultural and social engagement and may function as community action; the community is not only a context for work but also a context to be worked with (Stige, 2002).


As is evident from the above, there is considerable diversity in the field of music therapy and how one can think about how music is valuable in clinical practice. The various music therapy approaches employ music as a creative, communicative, projective, symbolic, concrete, social and transformative tool in a variety of clinical and community settings.


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Ansdell, G. (2002). Community music therapy and the winds of change. Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy Vol.2(2) 2002. Available at http://www.voices.no/mainissues/Voices2(2)ansdell.html(Accessed 4 June.2002)

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Reuer, B., Crowe, B. and Bernstein, B. (1999). Best Practice in Music therapy: Utilizing Group Percussion Strategies for Promoting Volunteerism in the Well Older Adults. Silver Spring, MD: The American Music therapy Association, Inc.

Stige, B (2002). Culture-centered music therapy. Gilsum: Barcelona Publishers.

Watson, D. M. (2002). Drumming and improvisation with adult male sexual offenders. Music Therapy Perspectives, 20(2), pp 105-111.

Wigram, T. Pedersen, I.N. and Bonde, L.O. (2002). A comprehensive guide to music therapy: Theory, clinical practice, research and training. Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.