Song and metaphoric imagery in forensic music therapy

Chambers, Carol (2008) Song and metaphoric imagery in forensic music therapy. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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The present research study grew out of my professional practice as a music therapist, and seeks to put forward a new approach to the relationship between theory, research and clinical practice - while still relating in meaningful ways to a broad range of existing work. Music therapy in the UK is a broad and expanding profession, encompassing a notably diverse range of theoretical approaches and practical applications. Such approaches and applications may use, for example, free improvisation, songwriting, or listening- and response-based techniques. And there is a range of specialised literature dealing with each of these areas, as well as a number of broader, overarching studies dealing with the overall field. Within the tradition of a model based largely on musical improvisation, which has been my own practice, the use of pre-composed songs might be regarded as unusual, perhaps even as anomalous. But I hope to show that it is in fact a useful and profoundly revealing process which is firmly rooted in an ethos of active musical participation. This thesis examines the use of songs in forensic pyschiatric music therapy for women, and offers this use of song as an alternative model of musical creativity within such a context.

My research project as a whole is approached from the philosophical framework of behaviourism; and the thesis is written from a 'social constructionist' perspective of the creation and enactment of self-identity, grounded in a belief that life and music become inextricably associated during the constructive process. As its major source of evidence, the study presents a longitudinal case study of one woman over the entire three-year course of her therapy. Her song choices are examined according to an adaptation of therapeutic narrative analysis, framed within a chronological view of events. Music remains a central focus and presence within the study, both as a vehicle for song texts and as a therapeutic medium in its own right; and the archetype of sonata form is invoked as a structural framework for analysis and the production of meaning.

Images and bi-polar constructs are abstracted from the songs and their metaphoric content interpreted in the context of known life experiences and the progress of the therapy sessions themselves. Results reveal a strong use of generative metaphoric imagery which is humanized yet also, crucially, emotionally decentred or depersonalized. This then leads to assertions of a process of 'Music Therapy by Proxy'. There are also clear indications of the relevance of the passing of time as a dimension of the therapeutic process, resulting in a pattern which I term 'Reverse Chronology'.

The songs which were used during the course of therapy provide words, imagery and, in addition, a musical substrate or continuum which 'carries' the textual-and-visual components but also has its own expressive and therapeutic importance. All these elements have their place and function within the therapy as described. Song as a concept is further defined as a transformative or metamorphic process enabling the expression of deeply personal, often unheard or 'suppressed' voices. Emerging from this process, seven core themes are indentified. These then provide the focus for a wider discussion concerning the significance of song and imagery for women in forensic therapy, and the issues which arise from them. Finally, suggestions are made for music therapy practice and for possible new directions in future research.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Weller, P.H.
Keywords: music therapy, forensic, psychiatric, women, song, metaphor, imagery, behaviourism, narrative, constructionism
Subjects: M Music and Literature on music > ML Literature of music
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Arts > School of Humanities
Item ID: 10833
Depositing User: EP, Services
Date Deposited: 29 Jun 2009 08:22
Last Modified: 14 Oct 2017 23:27

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