PhD Thesis by Unni Tanum Johns: Musical Dynamics in Time-Limited Intersubjective Child Psychotherapy

PhD Thesis by Unni Tanum Johns: Musical Dynamics in Time-Limited Intersubjective Child Psychotherapy

In this project Unni Johns developed a method for analysing child psychotherapy and analysed in detail small episodes with six children suffering from anxiety and depression using musical concepts of e.g. rhythm and tempo. Unni Johns found some patterns which indicated how a ‘musical looking glass’ can clarify the role of nonverbal communication for the capability to share and express emotional experiences.

The thesis “Musical dynamics in time-limited intersubjective child psychotherapy – an exploration based on microanalysis of therapeutic interplay” builds on a previous research project on child psychotherapy. The children were referred to an outpatient clinic in Oslo with different psychological and relational problems. They received fifteen sessions with time-limited therapy, aimed at increasing the children´s capability to share emotional experiences. Parallel parent therapy and agreement on therapeutic goals were part of the method. After therapy the parents reported that the children expressed more feelings, both negative and positive, with improved parent-child relationships. This made me curious to find out more about how this therapy can help children to develop emotionally. Children express themselves first and foremost nonverbally. Therefore, empirical knowledge shows that it has developmental and therapeutic significance to respond to children´s nonverbal signals.

The research context for the thesis was a mixed method multicentre study between NTNU (The Norwegian University of Science and Technology) and Akershus University Hospital aiming at the study of development of emotion regulation in children with internalising difficulties (clinical and control group) through time-limited intersubjective child therapy. My research was qualitative analysis of episodes of emotion regulation between therapist and child. To be able to describe the range of nonverbal communication, I used the musical concepts of rhythm, tempo, tone of voice, pauses and variations in intensity to describe the communication between therapist and child. Musical analysis is well-known in infant research, but little used in psychotherapy research. I therefore developed a method for analysing child psychotherapy and analysed in detail small episodes with six children suffering from anxiety and depression. I found some patterns which indicated how a ‘musical looking glass’ can clarify the role of nonverbal communication for the capability to share and express emotional experiences. Such knowledge is essential for how therapists can reach a better understanding of the role of nonverbal communication in child psychotherapy to help children who has emotional difficulties. Also, such knowledge is helpful in supervision as part of therapeutic development.

Download summary

Download thesis

About Unni Tanum Johns