Improving mental health in families with autistic children: benefits of using video feedback in parent counselling sessions offered alongside music therapy
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Anglia Ruskin University, Music Therapy Centre, Cambridge, United Kingdom
Cambridgeshire Music, Huntingdon, United Kingdom
Submission date: 2016-07-31
Final revision date: 2016-10-15
Acceptance date: 2016-10-15
Online publication date: 2016-11-22
Publication date: 2016-11-29
Health Psychology Report 2017;5(2):138-150
This paper explores benefits of parent counselling offered alongside music therapy with children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Research studies have shown that the stress levels of primary caregivers of children with ASD are not only higher than in the general population but also higher than in parents of children with other developmental disabilities. It is therefore recommended that music therapists working with children with ASD also engage and support their parents.

Participants and procedure
In the international randomised controlled trial TIME-A, which investigates the effects of music therapy on the social communicative skills of autistic children, participating families are offered three parent counselling sessions. For this paper, 68 counselling sessions with 25 families were evaluated; 14 sessions were transcribed and subjected to a content analysis. Case examples illustrate the impact of concomitant parent counselling sessions on the families.

The analysis generated emerging themes that were grouped into two categories: 1) Non-music therapy specific themes, and 2) Music therapy specific themes. The first category comprised four sub-groups: Exchange of information, Experiences with professionals/friends/society, Worries about the future, Personal/matrimonial problems. Music therapy specific themes were subdivided into the following groups: Working in a partnership, Empowering parents, Celebrating strengths, Rejoicing in child’s enjoyment. Challenges caused by the dual roles of music therapist and parent counsellor were outweighed by the benefits. In addition to the therapeutic effect of counselling, video material from the music therapy sessions helped carers to see their children’s strengths, to gain new ideas, and to develop a more positive outlook.

The findings support the provision of parent counselling sessions alongside music therapy for children with ASD. This study highlights that extending the role of the music therapist and using video feedback offers encouraging possibilities to further support the wellbeing of the whole family.
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