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Receptive Methods in Music Therapy: Techniques and Clinical Applications for Music Therapy Clinicians, Educators and Students

br2007_083Grocke, Denise & Tony Wigram (2007). Receptive Methods in Music Therapy: Techniques and Clinical Applications for Music Therapy Clinicians, Educators and Students. London and Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Denise Grocke and Tony Wigram are to be congratulated for addressing how the music therapist applies music listening as a therapeutic tool. Because every music therapy encounter involves receiving music in some way, it is exceedingly challenging to describe the role of receptive music in a single volume. Yet, the authors succeed in providing an excellent compendium of techniques that are part of the music therapist’s repertoire.

As Past Presidents of the World Federation of Music Therapy, Professors Grocke and Wigram are well-known leaders in the field. We are fortunate that their masterful minds have collaborated to write this important text for learning music therapy skills. Receptive Methods in Music Therapy now joins the excellent guides in songwriting and improvisation by Tony Wigram and co-authors to form a valuable trio of methods books for the beginning music therapist. This long-awaited treatment of receptive techniques offers a useful companion to Isabelle Frohne-Hagemann’s more philosophical edited work on Receptive Music Therapy: Theory and Practice.

The ten chapters of Receptive Methods in Music Therapy orient the reader to basic practices rather than attempt a comprehensive evaluation. Each topic includes a step-by-step guide to use of the techniques and corresponding clinical examples that span the life cycle. Plentiful tables, figures and therapist-client dialogues provide practical assistance to students and professionals as they judge the best way to handle the next decision in the therapeutic process.

Chapter 1 tells the therapist how to engage clients verbally and musically by asking them first to examine the assumptions that influence attitudes about clients. Well-organized tables elucidate the comparisons between counseling and music therapy, effective vs. poor listening skills, as well as focused questions and the responses they attempt to elicit. A variety of case vignettes give life to the methods so carefully presented by quoting interactions between therapist and client. Exercises challenge the music therapist to handle a number of clinical situations, offering a useful instructional aide. Finally, a section on the use of empathic improvisation with non-verbal clients fills out this well-written account of an effective receptive music therapy session.

Chapter 2 informs the reader of the selection process for music that is, of course, at the core of receptive methods. The text reminds the therapist of the importance of client-preferred music, and goes on to examine the characteristics of various genres. The authors’ assessment that most music therapists use classical music is a generality that raises a few questions. But, rather than including an analysis of popular, religious, ethnic, or other styles of music that may have personal meaning, they provide a way to assess the suitability of a given piece. In recommending two particular CDs for infants, it is curious that they do not stress the importance of using a small range of decibel levels or the advisability of providing the mother’s voice. In the authors’ defense, however, it is challenging to provide recommendations without the context of an individualized treatment plan. Their earlier disclaimer also makes clear their intention to provide an overview at the sacrifice of comprehensiveness.

The remaining eight chapters are devoted to the methods themselves. Chapters 3 and 4 address relaxation and receptive techniques with children, adolescents and adults. Preparation, induction and contraindications are included for various clinical populations. Case descriptions of improvised music for children in palliative care, nature sounds with a man who has Huntington’s disease, and guided relaxation with a group of cardiac patients demonstrate particularly effective model sessions. Induction scripts are excellent resources for both the student and professional music therapist; the clinical examples are enlightening. Suggestions for choice of music reflect the experience of many clinicians. They include classical selections, new age and film music.

Chapter 5 describes the capability of music and imagery to direct attention away from pain or anxiety and to enhance emotional health and well-being. It details procedures for a wide variety of imagery and visualization inductions, includes guidelines on developing original scripts, and presents adaptations to meet special client needs. It helps music therapists assess the client’s suitability for these approaches and prepares them to manage potential negative experiences. Musical examples are classical, except for one case study where an African drum recording is used with at-risk youth. The authors emphasize the requirement of special training for music therapists to do this work, but interestingly, do not address the impact of live music vs. recorded music in visualization or imagery sessions.

Chapter 6 introduces song analysis/discussion, reminiscence, and life review. These methods are transcribed in great detail, with moving case examples and explicit recommendations. Particularly impressive is the section on Song Lyric Discussion with its extensive discography of contemporary artists and the issues that are generated in each of these songs. The authors delineate multiple levels of discussions for the therapist to conduct regarding the music listening experience. The extensive knowledge and skill in a variety of psychotherapeutic approaches that are required to facilitate these discussions can only be gleaned superficially in this chapter. But the authors succeed in providing good tips for the inexperienced music therapist.

Chapter 7 deals with perceptual listening and music appreciation. It offers general principles, protocols and provisions for listening to music and includes ways that responses can be observed and assessed. It describes a research study that examined the effects of listening to different types of music. The guidelines and applications to music therapy are not as finely tuned in this chapter as they are in the rest of the book.

Chapter 8 is a lovely presentation of the use of art media in receptive music therapy. The examples here are aesthetically pleasing and thought-provoking. The case studies are fascinating.

Chapter 9 is a highly developed presentation of vibroacoustic therapy, its history, research base, guidelines and applications. Although the contraindications of this technique are not completely understood, the authors are very specific regarding the expectations and outcomes of this type of therapy with different physical and psychiatric conditions. Each recommendation is accompanied by a reference to the research, instilling the reader’s confidence in the use of this clinical method. The chapter concludes with a classical music discography, including the key in which each selection is written.

Chapter 10 is a presentation of music and movement, focusing on clients with physical disabilities. A protocol of 15 movements to music is included as an example of the range and diversity of motion that can be exercised with music. The therapeutic value of moving to music and the need for collaboration with physiotherapists, parents, carers and others is an important message. The chapter ends with a transcription of a beautiful good-bye song by Tony Wigram.

Students and professionals will be well-served by this essential guidebook on the practice of receptive music therapy. The authors have contributed an important text, affirming, once again, their expertise in the field of music therapy.


Frohne-Hagemann, Isabelle (Ed.) (2007). Receptive Music Therapy: Theory and Practice. Germany: Zeitpunktmusik.

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