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Where Art and Therapy Collide

Where Art and TherapyCollide - Sound and Voice Arts for Health and Wellbeing by Lyz Cooper

There is a growing understanding of the positive impact that arts-based therapeutic sessions can have on health and wellbeing. By supplementing conventional medicine and care, sound, music and voice can be used to improve health and wellbeing. But what are sound and voice-arts and how does this approach differ from conventional Sound Therapy orSound Healing?


In 2014 NHS England published the ‘Five Year Forward View’ which addressed the growing need for interventions that prevent health conditions from manifesting and/or worsening in the longer term - the CulturalCommissioning Programme (CCP) identified great potential for the arts to be such an intervention.  An All-PartyParliamentary Group (APPG) on Arts, Health and Wellbeing was then formed to help raise awareness of the improvements that the arts can bring to health and wellbeing. In 2017, following years of research and investigation, a report was created that presented the benefits.


There are now many different organisations championing the arts for health and wellbeing in many different ways – from organising trips to museums with exhibits that partially sighted people can touch, to knitting for good mental health - there are so many ways the arts can be used for therapeutic purposes.


Sound and Voice Arts

There are so many different ways you can use sound and voicearts including creating performances, recordings, sound installations, improvisational voice pieces and soundscapes. All ages can benefit and the application is so wide. The therapeutic outcomes include pain relief, communication skills building, musicality, social skills, confidence, working through difficult life experiences, higher level thinking, sequencing and processing skills and just for the heaven of it!


The approach is different from conventional sound and voice therapy in that it is not ‘passive’, it is participative with the group in the driving seat of the process, steering, guiding and shaping a session. The sound/voice arts facilitator scaffolds, mentors and supports, using their professional judgement to help move the session towards the intended outcome.This makes such sessions wonderfully dynamic, creative and fun.  In a usual sound therapy session, the client lays down and receives the sound as a treatment, so it is a very different approach. 


A sound/voice-arts session also can incorporate other areas of the arts such as poetry, story-telling or painting.  Soundscape sessions are an example of this –a group may take a beautifully dark and moving Turner sea-scape and reflect the energy of the picture with gongs, drums and voice for example.  The wonderfully moving ‘Tone Poems’ are songs with non-sensical words and are used to bridge gaps and allow barriers and constructs to fall (they are also so much fun to create!).  The inspiration from the Tone Poems goes back to a time when trade-routes would have brought tribes, cultures and world-views together to share stories, songs and dances. 


Taking things Forward- Training and Research Opportunities

The British Academy of Sound Therapy (BAST) has been developing courses to meet the growing need for ‘the arts on prescription’ since we ran the first ‘Therapeutic Sound in the Community Course’ in 2010. In 2019 we will be offering 2 different Sound and Voice Arts Courses that can be combined to create Higher Level Diplomas. These include the sound and voicescapes, games, improvisation and a whole range of activities you can do with many different community groups from children to the elderly.


We are passionate about research and enriching the field and so are really excited to be offering 8 different community projects to choose from(4 sound and 4 voice).  As well as enriching your knowledge and skill-base and informing the field, research opens doors and creates opportunity. We know that research and community projects can be really difficult and expensive to run. Research can also be a lonely activity - especially without a mentor or peer group.


Together we will work on our chosen project coordinated and supported by Lyz Cooper MA, MSc and Nicola Kelly, a BAST graduate Mentor with20 year’s experience in Community Work specialising in the Arts for Health andWellbeing. There will be webinars, meetings and templates to support students as we work towards collecting data.  


BAST will collate the final audio files, visuals and data that you’ve gathered individually and create a final project presentation to benefit all.  With this information you can:


·      Present your findings at conferences

·      Write about your work

·      Get employment in a chosen area or improve your pay-grade

·      Discover valuable information about your chosen subject

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