Music Therapy – a world beyond words

Music therapy for children

Music comes from the heart of the human being. When emotions are born they are expressed by sounds and when sounds are born they give birth to music (Lehtonen 1995).

Liso is crippled with grief. Her body is ridged, each breath seems to take an enormous amount of energy.

As a music therapist, I watch how Liso presents herself musically. Her body tells a story through the rhythm of her breathing and the timbre of her voice.

The tempo of her movements, each motion and gesture says something musically, and can be interpreted amodally and translated into sound.

Her song is slow and sorrowful. She comes and sits next to me and I sing long vowel sounds, as I play on the guitar. Liso gazes at me and without talking about her grief, she knows that I know.

Jake stands in the middle of the room screaming in frustration. His anger has overtaken any ability to listen, rationalise and step back from the situation.

As I join him in vocalising, I sing in the same pitch and with the same intensity and I bang the drum in a regular beat in time with his breaths. I can see that he is shocked.

He is used to being reprimanded at this behaviour and I am tolerating it. I am joining him and in doing so acknowledging his feelings and saying it is okay.

I am doing all of this without saying a word. Jake joins me on the drum and we play furiously together. Jake is smiling.

Most of the time the children that I work with do not have the vocabulary to put their feelings into words.

This may be because they are too young. It may be because they have suffered a trauma and want to avoid how they feel. It may be because they have- delayed development, Cerebral Palsy, Down Syndrome or Autism, and are unable to express themselves and their emotions in an appropriate way.

Using music improvisation on a variety of percussive instruments, singing, song writing, movement and play opens a world of expressive possibilities where verbal communication is not necessarily an option or appropriate.

Music therapy offers endless opportunities for self-expression. Encouraging a therapeutic relationship in a safe environment where self-exploration, healing and change can take place.

Mikaela Griffiths Bester has a Clinical Masters in Music Therapy and works as an Expressive Arts Therapist in private practice. For more information go to

By Mikaela Griffiths Bester


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Kids Connection was successfully launched in March 2006 by Wendy Beaufort for distribution to parents and teachers in the local Port Elizabeth market. The comprehensive directory for young families from newborn to 12 years, was born because, Wendy, a mom of three, understood the importance of having detailed information related to children that is aimed at assisting young families spend less time PLANNING and more time PLAYING….READ MORE