Use of Traditional and Nontraditional Instruments with Traumatized Children in Bethlehem, West Bank

By Behrens, Gene Ann | Music Therapy Perspectives, July 1, 2012 | Go to article overview

Use of Traditional and Nontraditional Instruments with Traumatized Children in Bethlehem, West Bank


Behrens, Gene Ann, Music Therapy Perspectives


ABSTRACT: The use of traditional versus nontraditional instruments is an important decision to consider when working with clients from different cultures, especially when traveling to work as a music therapist in another country. The purpose of this paper is to share personal experiences and the information gathered while preparing for and working with children traumatized by the ongoing conflict (Thabet, Abed, & Vostanis, 2002) in Bethlehem within the West Bank of the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). In deciding to incorporate traditional and nontraditional instruments, the author discusses the differential use of these instruments while simultaneously presenting theories on multicultural counseling that support their use. In addition, the author discusses how an analysis of session transcripts supports observations that the children tended to play traditional instruments using a traditional pattern and to play nontraditional instruments using other rhythmic, creative improvisations that facilitated emotional expression.

The purpose of this paper is to discuss the author's experiences and observations concerning Palestinian children's musical responses when playing traditional and nontraditional music instruments during music therapy sessions and reflect upon the implications for music therapists working in other cultures. The children involved were 20 first to fifth graders from two different schools in the Bethlehem within the West Bank of the OPT. They ranged in age from 7 to 1 2, with a mean age of 9.45 years. The focuses of the entire project involved evaluating the potential for using a seven-component music therapy protocol (Behrens, 2008) to develop the emotional coping skills of children traumatized by the ongoing conflict within Bethlehem (Thabet, Abdulla, Elhelou, & Vostanis, 2006; Thabet, Abed, & Vostanis, 2002, 2004), and to investigate the emotional support provided by families and social support systems within the community. Although Palestinians have traditionally tended to be fairly stoic in their expression of emotions (Baker & Shalhoub-Kevorkian, 1999; Pines & Zaidman, 2003), most people in Bethlehem stated that the on-going multitraumatic situation now warrants a change (Mapp, Behrens, & Socha, 2012). Many now believe talking about emotions is a way for the children to cope and develop resilience (Mapp et al., 2012). I left with only minimal plans for the music therapy sessions based on my limited email interactions with one health care professional at a facility in Bethlehem. As the setting and limited opportunity to prepare provided challenges in setting up the program, I therefore needed to explore and make all arrangements for the music therapy sessions once I arrived, including the purchase of some instruments.

Use of Instruments as Reported by Other Music Therapists

Unfortunately, there is little written about what music therapists might consider when selecting music instruments for use in sessions involving clients from other cultures. At most, music therapists working with traumatized individuals from other countries or with clients from other cultures only listed or briefly discussed the instruments with which they worked. Orth and Verbingt (1998) reported working with refugee clients using instruments from their native countries as well as what they called "universal instruments such as guitar and piano" (p. 86). Chase (2003) referred to the piano and guitar as more Western-European instruments and suggested using rhythm and accompanying instruments from other countries such as cabasas, maracas, and güiros. These instruments, however, have become common in most music therapy sessions in the United States. In a later report of their work, Orth, Doorschodt, Verbürgt, and Drozdek (2004) discussed that they also used drums, xylophones, and harps tuned to a pentatonic scale, rainmakers, ocean drums, small rhythm instruments, and rhythm eggs. Within the Sing and Crow programs in Australia, Williams and Abad (2008) used indigenous instruments that were supplied by the organizations with whom they worked. …

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