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Music Therapy Supervision

br2006_064Forinash, Michelle (Ed.)(2001). Music Therapy Supervision. Gilsum, NH: Barcelona Publishers.

My interest in this book began in 2001 when I first learned about its existence. Although supervision lies at the heart of our clinical work, and although it is and should be part of our ethical code, I could not help but feel that this topic was seriously neglected. And then this volume appeared; the first book to focus on the art and science of supervision. More importantly, raising questions about supervision is a sign of the maturation of our profession.

The editor is a prominent music therapist who has made significant contributions to the theory and practice of music therapy. Her broad experience in clinical practice, research, teaching and supervision qualifies her to undertake this task. I enjoyed reading this book, but more importantly it provoked me to expand my knowledge and helped me to better integrate and understand my own experiences as a supervisee (both by music therapists and psychologists), my intuitions in supervising students, my dilemmas, questions and doubts. I certainly share the author’s observation that “I frequently felt at a loss as a supervisor and often struggled to find the “best” way to supervise any given student” (pp. 1).

Forinash introduces us gradually into the subject matter and to her personal development as a supervisor, while paying due respect to the founders of our discipline. In doing so, she also presents her credo about supervision:

  • Supervision is relationship.
  • It is a process of unfolding nature, not a recipe.
  • Supervisors are not omnipotent beings.
  • Supervisees are not blank slates upon which “the experts” download their unequivocal truth.
  • There are many diverse ways to supervise, and the supervisee (just like the supervisor in this book) might be introduced to contradictory approaches, ideas and techniques.
  • The supervisor who reads this book is invited by the writer to adopt supervision strategies with which he\she resonates and be authentic with his/her own philosophies and personal experiences as a music therapist.

The literature puts an emphasis on parallel process between the therapist and client and between the supervisor and supervisee. Forinashs’ book seems to add another parallel process, between supervisors and their instructors. Since it is unrealistic to provide a detailed review of these twenty two chapters that comprise this book, only selected highlights will be examined.

The first part contains three chapters, and deals with literature, ethics and multicultural approaches. Chapter one, (McClain) notes that the phenomenal growth of music therapy necessitates more advanced clinical training, and the author very briefly surveys the main subjects that are at the heart of supervision. For instance: the different internship models that exist in the U.S.A.; professional supervision models that exist in the western world; voices of clinicians who advocate international internships and of those who feel that we need more multicultural training; skills that are expected in professional supervision, etc. In the chapter’s extensive survey of the literature it was surprising to learn that only one article (viz. Brown, 1997) was taken from the British Journal of Music Therapy. Considering that music therapy is quite popular in the U.K. the issue of supervision did not attract much attention in this prestigious journal.

Dileo’s article – Ethical Issues in Supervision – emphasizes that “ethics is fundamental to the supervisory process itself, and is also an important content area that must be conveyed during supervision” (pp. 19). Nevertheless this important subject has been neglected in our research, thus, most of the studies that are introduced in this article originate in psychology. From the long list of references only one article – that of Maranto, 1987 – was published in a source that deals with issues that are specific to Music Therapy; a clear indication of the necessity to investigate ethical issues as they are realized in music therapy. Dileo lists a comprehensive list of ethical issues in supervision, but to this reader it appeared that major ethical issues which are specific to music therapy are missing, for example: different musical cultures or tolerance to the “other’s” music, musical transference and counter transference that the supervisee might experience etc. Although the next chapter deals specifically with multiculturalism, it would seem proper to regard multiculturalism itself as an ethical issue, and it is necessary to ask these questions and to understand their ethical implications for relationships that develop in the context of music.

Dileo also raises the importance of instituting appropriate training for supervisors that should be acknowledged by certification. Bruscia’s article (chapter 19) and Scheiby are the only two in this book who discuss an apprenticeship-training program in supervision developed by the author at Temple University. The subject has been discussed in Israel, but aside from focused sessions on “supervision for supervisors” that are offered by the training programs for the benefit of therapists who train students, there are no formal programs targeted to supervisors .

Estrella reviews the literature on Multicultural approaches. Sadly, one cannot help to be impressed by the paucity of available material on questions such as the awareness of music therapists to other musical styles, different meanings that cultures attribute to their music, the culture’s influence on the formation of identity, and the specific influence of music on identity formation (Ruud, 1998).

The remaining three parts of the book provide a wealth of information on different models of supervision as practiced internationally. It is an amazing experience to encounter models that span Pre-professional Supervision (chapters5-11), Professional Supervision (chapters 12-19) and Institute Supervision (chapters 20-22), and to realize how diverse, personal, emotionally charged, and complicated supervision really is.

Summer (chap. 5) discusses issues of the First-Time Music Therapy Practicum. With accomplished and pedagogic style she describes the objectives of training the young students and the obstacles to be anticipated. The vignettes she provides and the role-playing she describes illustrate very clearly how observant the supervisor must be, and how careful it is not to impose his/her personality on the supervisee and rather allow the student to find his/her own way. This is an excellent chapter; it is clearly written and without doubt is must reading for first-time supervisors. In contrast, Hanser’s chapter offers a system analysis approach to music therapy praxis, it seems out of step with the other contributions to this volume.

Feiner (chapter 7) examines the different dynamics that contribute to the intensity of the supervisor-intern relationship. The supervisor is once an omnipotent figure with all the answers, an administrator, and a source of support. Feiner briefly visits the teach\treat controversy with examples of how counter-transference issues interfere with understanding the client. While essentially turning to the literature in psychology, she also deals with counter-transference reactions that are specific to music therapy, such as: “a particular mood of music is absent from an intern’s vocabulary, and cannot be accessed when a client needs it”( pp.107). She also illustrates how to use music in exploring unresolved issues. The value of this message could have been substantially enhanced if the editor would have provided index accessible references to others who utilize this approach.

Thomas’ article (chap. 9) will likely be useful for therapists who are responsible for music therapy students during their internship. He mentions some obvious points, of which one deserves constant reminding: “…discuss and familiarize interns with their new environment, as it is so often very foreign territory” (pp. 136). He reminds the reader of some interesting points that relate to the first steps in music therapy.

Stige’s article (chap. 11) is best described as challenging and stimulating: The idea of incorporating narrative perspective in supervision has potential: having a safe place for stories to unfold, and restructuring the supervisor’s experience with one who takes the role of a “not-knowing listener” (pp. 166) and who becomes a co-author with a potential for discovering strength in a nurturing environment.

Part three introduces us to different supervision styles that are optimal for the beginning professional. Barrata et al (chapter 12) suggest peer supervision as a means of coping with the “ending anxiety” that students feel at the transition period when they change from student to professional. This is a simple and powerful idea, and the emphasis that the authors place on the arts, as an integral part of the peer supervision, is even more exciting and intriguing. (I understand the writers who donated their ideas are a group of young professionals, and it would have been useful to have included a short biography of each the writers.) This chapter is informative and comprehensive. Amir (chapter 13) focuses on individual supervision for the new therapist who works within the educational system. It is interesting, well written, and by focusing on the different issues that the supervisor should address, she gives us an idea about the complexity of the task. In the summary of this chapter Amir writes:

“There are supervisees who I love and adore. There are supervisees whose intellect I appreciate…There are supervisees who touch me…There are supervisees with whom I find it very easy to bring more of my personal and intimate self, while with others I am more official and didactic… There are supervisees who press my buttons and usually succeed in making me angry, tense, frustrated, and helpless and others with whom I feel at ease and at home…There are times when I stay very focused completely in the here and now, and there are other times when I find myself drifting away…Supervision is a journey of two…it creates itself in the here an now…” (pp.209-210).

This is a genuine description of the process the supervisor is going through in the course of working with the client. It is a priceless capture of what it means to say that supervision is relationship. In chapter 14, Langdon describes an experiential music therapy supervision group that moves back and forth between words and music and particularly nurtures what can be called the “musical mind”. She depicts in a clear and systematic way four modes of intervention that move between words and music. Chapter 15 (Austin & Dvorkin) is another description of peer supervision that was founded by a group of music therapists in 1991 and who desired to integrate concepts of music therapy with psychotherapy. It was a music-centered supervision at a time when music was not the language spoken in supervision. Frohne-Hagemann and Perls illustrate in a clear and constructive style the way that integrative techniques are used in professional group supervision. In the vignette they present, they describe stage by stage, the different phases of the process. Of special interest is how the members of the group integrate their corporeal resonance into understanding the music and the patient, just like Blacking [1974] who feels that the roots of music are in our body. Lee’s article (chap. 17) focuses on clinical listening, which helps us explore meanings, although the move from the music to the clinical interpretations may leave the reader with a number of unanswered questions. Scheiby (Chap. 20) discusses supervision in Analytic Music Therapy (AMT), where both musical and verbal processing of clinical material are essential components. It is a rich article, using an example replete with details and clear illustrations using analytic concepts in therapy and in supervision. A subject that was not explored in this book and I believe, deserves our attention is the application of intersubjective perspective in supervision. Supervision is a crossroads of a matrix of object relations of three persons, of a complex network of transference/countertransference patterns. Its emotional climate is a crucial factor in its evolution into a transitional space, that can generate new meanings (Berman, 2000).

This book will prove to be a valuable addition to the library of anyone who recognizes the need to remain current with the state of teaching and supervising in music therapy, and for new and experienced music therapists who weigh possibilities of different supervision styles. Overall the book is well written, and well edited. The progression and development of the subjects raised by the authors is logical and coherent. It clarifies and sharpens the message that different supervision styles may fit a music therapist at different points in his/her professional life. Implicitly, it recommends that we should all try different supervisory styles.

Although this book is intended for the professional audience, it does not feature an index. Its absence is a serious disadvantage. The richness of concepts, techniques and dilemmas raised in this book is enormous, however a summary chapter or epilogue that reviews and classifies the rich material and the different points raised by the authors, is sorely missed.

This book fills a deficiency in our professional life. It can serve as a textbook in a course for teaching supervision, and should be expected to enhance the creation of certified supervision programs the world over.


Berman, E. (2000). Psychoanalytic Supervision: The Intersubjective Development. Int. J. Psychoanal., Apr; 81 (pt 2): 273-90.

Blacking, J. (1974). How Musical is Man? Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press.

Ruud, E. (1998). Music Therapy: Improvisation, Communication, and Culture. Gilsum, NH: Barcelona Press.

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