Discovering Expression,Communication, and Interaction through Improvisational Music Therapy: Experiences of a Client with Profound Intellectual Disability

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Stavoli, Michael
Master of Arts in Music Therapy
Clinical improvisation is known by music therapists as one of the primary tools used to engage clients of varying abilities and challenges (Bruscia, 1998; Bruscia, 1987). Music therapists structure improvisation experiences to bring the musical freedom of creation and expression to our clients. While these outcomes may seem basic, opportunities for creation, communication, and interrelation are particularly significant for those individuals who have communicative and cognitive challenges, such as individuals with profound intellectual disability (ID). Many individuals within this population have difficulties with communication and interaction, but can find ways to be heard through clinical improvisation experiences with the therapist. The following case study features one client with profound ID. His experiences in improvisational music therapy sessions are described through analysis of video-recorded sessions. Aspects of the client’s discovery of his ability to express himself, communicate, and interact with the therapist are discussed through examination of his musical participation. The client’s musicing is further analyzed through the Nordoff-Robbins evaluation scales, as well as integration of theories of Abraham Maslow.