Can music therapy benefit the whole family?

Playing With Chaos:

Broadening Possibilities for How Music Therapist’s Consider Chaos in Group Work With Young People

Researchers from the University of Melbourne in Australia surveyed existing literature to explore how “chaos”, or a sense of disorder or confusion, within music therapy sessions can benefit the therapeutic process. Oosthuizen and McFerran (2020) identified a frequent absence of discussions of disorganized or challenging session occurrences in current music therapy research and noted the pressure music therapists may feel to present structured interventions in their studies. Oosthuizen and McFerran (2020) exemplify music therapy groups led by the first author with young people in South Africa, highlighting that teenagers participating in music therapy groups often simultaneously experience chaos in their daily lives related to poverty, violence, or neglect.  Authors argue music therapy sessions therefore don’t always need to contain or resolve the chaos but can rather embrace it as resource with potential for fostering authentic self-expression, creativity, and coping mechanisms for trauma. In summarizing related research, Oosthuizenand McFerran (2020) describe how improvisational group instrument play, including that which may be perceived as loud or “noisy”, may help validate and provide safe spaces for nonverbal expression of powerful feelings of anger, frustration, or sadness within boundaries that maintain participant physical and emotional safety.


Oosthuizen, H., & McFerran, K. (2020). Playing with chaos: Broadening possibilities for how music therapist’s consider chaos in group work with young people. Music Therapy Perspectives, 39(1), 2-10.