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Lyz Cooper
from: Lyz Cooper

Defining Sound Therapy

Sound Therapy - facilitating transformative process

By Lyz Cooper

Is there a difference between 'sound healing' and 'sound therapy'?  

I don't feel comfortable answering the 'sound healing' part of this question, but I will address 'sound therapy' from The British Academy of Sound Therapy's point of view.  

Perhaps this article may form the basis for discussion from the different emerging aspects of, for want of a better definition, 'sonic medicine' - be it in the form of 'healing' or 'therapy'.

As different schools and individuals within the field continue to forge ahead in pioneering spirit, it is important that these differences exist, therefore allowing for choice and the healthy growth of this field.  If we were all the same then we would not grow, learn and develop - there is no 'better' or 'worse', 'right' or 'wrong'.

What is 'therapy'?

One definition of therapy is as follows, 'the act of caring for someone (as by medication, remedial training, or so on)'  Hommel, D. (2004) mentions a common definition of therapy as 'a change in an individual’s physical, mental or emotional well-being'.  

The therapeutic process is something that usually occurs over time, although this is not always the case as sometimes there are huge shifts.  As sound therapists/practitioners we are focused on facilitating a 'process', that enables a client or group member to be aware of where they are and where they would like to be (if, indeed, they know).  This movement of the system from one state to another is the 'process'.  

With reference to the above definition by Hommel, (2004), she goes on to say:

'the second aspect of this definition worth discussing is use of the word "well-being".   In geriatrics, with the various ageing diseases we encounter, our elders are not going to be “cured”.  But, we do know they can live life well, happily and with purpose.......It is this idea of wellness that we embrace, knowing it has to do with spirit and state of mind - rather than with disease and (orthodox medical) diagnosis.' (brackets mine).

The important question this quote raises in my opinion is - is 'the therapeutic process' always about getting better? 

I believe it is important for the client and therapist to remain objective and not be married to an outcome.  Being married to an outcome can become the holy grail which may never be attained, a goal that is never reached.  If the goal is not reached, does this mean the therapeutic process has failed?

One may not actually reach the intended outcome, and part of our job is to reassure the client that this is perfect for them at this time.  If there is resistance to this idea  then we can work with where that is coming from by reflecting on what this means to the client.

Bray (2011) states, 'We can only make changes in the subjective present, which it is important to keep in mind is not fixed, but a constantly moving window.'  

He goes on to say:

'Since it is not possible for any other being to share the same time instant (present) as myself because of separation by any distance of 10-33 millimetres (Planck's Constant) then any and all other observation by any other human being must occur by itself in a window of time in the past from my own. And since I cannot change or manipulate events in the past in any way then it is not possible for me to interact with that system. Therefore the only system with which I can interact is my own; every other system I can only observe.'

The above quote highlights the importance of working with what is in the room and honouring the clients process.  Although we work with the 'sound + intention = healing effect' equation, Goldman (2002), it is the client's intention that can be the only field of influence in the therapeutic process and, in truth, the therapist can only hold the space, observe and facilitate.  That is not to say that this is an unimportant role, this is paramount to a healthy and sound therapeutic relationship (s'cuse the pun!).  

At BAST we work in a client centred way, that is that we do not attempt to judge, manipulate or affect the outcome of the session. Only that our professional judgement is a container within which the client may see themselves and their process more clearly.  

We do this by bathing the client in certain frequencies, techniques etc., and see where the resonance, and, more importantly, where the resistance is. By shining a light on the clients reaction to and interaction with the sound and using reflective techniques our clients/group members can become more aware of themselves and therefore can choose to move or stay where they are.  

I wish everyone working with sound in any form the very best of sonic adventures!

Lyz Cooper and team at The British Academy of Sound Therapy (BAST) offer professional training courses in many different methodologies, as well as research and development in sound therapy in the UK and worldwide.   Courses are fun, informative and flexible and offer three different qualification levels; therapist, practitioner and advanced practitioner.

Lyz also runs workshops for anyone wishing to use sound for personal use.

Contact for further details. cited 11.06.12

Goldman, J (2002), Healing Sound, the Power of Harmonics, Inner Traditions

Bray, W, J (2011), Quantum Physics, Near Death Experiences, Eternal Consciousness, Religion and the Human Soul, CreateSpace

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