Music Therapy For Teens

We often hear that teenagers today face a greater burden than ever before.

Indeed, they have a significant load, including navigating social media, screen time, cyber-bullying and sexting not to mention overt peer pressure, academic pressure, pressure from family members and from themselves. These stressors all come at a time of identity formation and often confusion, frustration and difficulty regulation emotions, which can lead to overwhelming feelings of isolation, misunderstanding, high levels of anxiety and distress. Teenage suicide in South Africa is something to be taken very seriously, and the rising statistics are alarming. 

It is difficult to compare the challenges of teens today with the teens of every other generation. We can say with certainty, however, that our teens have new and different, never-before-faced challenges, which bring both new innovations and joys, as well as new problems. These new problems require new and creative approaches.

In my experience, music therapy is a non-threatening, creative and engaging therapeutic process during which teenagers tend to be open to building rapport, trust and establishing a working therapeutic relationship. Music itself is an important aspect of adolescent identity formation and plays a significant role in many teens’ daily lives – this helps to improve motivation, interest and engagement in the therapeutic process. This is especially important when faced with screen time addictions or lack of motivation to engage in other creative or social interactions owing to electronics/gaming/social media. In the music therapy process, teenagers can use non-verbal, creative means to express themselves in ways that they may not be able to in words alone, yet. This may provide some relief from overwhelming emotions as well as offer perspective. Teenagers may also reflect on their participation in the creative work, and develop their capacity for introspection and self-reflection. This also helps with developing coping skills. In group work, teens are able to offer support to others, develop social skills and reciprocal behaviours as well as share a range of experiences.  The relationships developed in music, expressive arts processes and reflection become forces for change in the teenager’s life. 

Contact me if you would like to find out more about music therapy for your teenager.

Melissa Ellse, registered music therapist, completed a Bachelor of Music (University of Cape Town) followed by a Masters in Music Therapy (cum laude, University of Pretoria). She is registered with the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA reg no AT 0001350) as well as the South African Music Therapists Association (SAMTA) and the South African National Association for Arts Therapists (SANATA).

What I Love About Music Therapy

Music Therapy Boy and Guitar

One of the great things about music therapy is that everyone, absolutely everyone, can respond to music. What I love about using music as a therapeutic tool is that it allows people to connect, communicate and discover meaning outside of the framework of words. I strongly believe that music can be a powerful tool for healing and self-discovery. I have been witness to this in my own life and the lives of many others and I am excited to see how the research is demonstrating the effectiveness of the clinical use of music within the healing professions.

While I enjoy working with clients from a variety of backgrounds and age groups, I feel particularly strongly about advocating for those who are marginalised by the mental health care system and/or the experience of stigma as well as providing opportunities for personal growth for individuals who may respond better to non-verbal or creative therapies, such as music therapy.

Music therapy naturally has a profound advantage in providing connection to clients with mild and severe disabilities as well as to clients all along the autism spectrum. Such individuals are often overlooked for traditional talk therapies and the opportunities for personal growth that come with them. Music therapy offers alternative and accessible experiences that promote reciprocal communication, development of communication skills, expanding range of expression and even expanding range of movement while nurturing the individual’s potential and musicality.

Music therapy is a burgeoning profession that is internationally recognised. In South Africa we abide by the highest ethical and professional standards of our professional association (SAMTA – South African Music Therapists’ Association) as well as the HPCSA (Health Professions Council of South Africa). While many people in Cape Town or Johannesburg may not have heard of music therapy, or met a music therapist, we are a small (yet growing) group of clinicians who are working in your schools, your hospitals and your clinics with children, teens, adults, the elderly and even new-borns.

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Melissa Ellse, registered music therapist, completed a Bachelor of Music (University of Cape Town) followed by a Masters in Music Therapy (cum laude, University of Pretoria). She is registered with the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA reg no AT 0001350) as well as the South African Music Therapists Association (SAMTA) and the South African National Association for Arts Therapists (SANATA).