Music Therapy and Socialization

Published by Diana Crawford on: Jul 22, 2019 — Music Therapy

“You put your right foot in, you put your right foot out, you put your right foot in, and shake you all about! You do the hokey pokey and you turn yourself around, that’s what it’s all about!”

Although there is still great debate as to who originally wrote the “Hokey Pokey,” this well-known song can inspire big groups of people to come together through singing and performing the movements. A music therapist will approach working with clients with this in mind, understanding that music has the power to bring people together. Music can provide a non-threatening way for people to connect with others around them, whether it be through conversations about music, listening to music at a concert, dancing to music, or sharing a preference for the same style of music. In addition to promoting socialization, music therapy experiences can also be used in teaching and learning social skills such as sharing, taking turns, cooperation, waiting for a turn, and many other skills needed to get along with our peers (no matter what our age).

  • Here a few ways that music in and of itself can bring people together to share in the same experience:
  • “The Hokey Pokey,” “The Chicken Dance,” and a number of line dances. Singing together, whether in an organized group (ie, choirs or a musical group) or in a stadium, listening to a favorite artist perform.
  • Playing in an instrumental group together.

Here are a few ways that a music therapist will use music for socialization and to build social skills:

  • Drumming Circle – people will move in and out of synchrony with each other while drumming, mirroring what we do in everyday interactions with people.
  • Having clients in a group have “musical conversations” using instruments. This can be practice for learning appropriate social behaviors such as one client waits for another to stop playing before s/he begins playing (mirroring having a verbal conversation; taking turns; impulse control). This also allows a client to engage in a non-verbal way, where talking with somebody may be uncomfortable or overwhelming.
  • Having one client be the “conductor” in the group, choosing who gets to play next, who stops playing, how the group plays, etc. (works on boundaries, leadership, relating to others).
  • Use songs detailing appropriate social behavior such as taking turns or using words to get something that is wanted.
  • A couple of song examples, using known songs:
    • “It’s Hattie’s Turn to Play” (tune of, “Farmer in the Dell”)
      “It’s Hattie’s turn to play, it’s Hattie’s turn to play, hi-ho-the-dairy-o, it’s Hattie’s turn to play!"
    • “I Want That” (tune of, “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”)
      “When I want something really bad, I use my words and not my hands!”

For other song ideas to help your child with social skills, check out KidLinks' music page.


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