Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Lessons from New Zealand: How Music May Soothe the "Savage" Teenager

I thought this would be an enlightening exercise in figuring out why people were serious about using music to drive away some hoodlum kids. The news article explained that there is a mall district in New Zealand that has been having a problem with teenagers hanging around and causing trouble. We all know that this is not a new problem in the world, but the city leaders in Wellington wanted to do something about the problem. Their idea is to use music by Barry Manilow to chase away the kids!

One of the quotes from a city manager was, "The intention is to change the environment in a positive way...so nobody feels threatened or intimidated." People often ask me if I use music to soothe my clients. I think they realize that music has the power to influence mood and can alter or augment an emotional state. I actually do not often have to use music to soothe a client, but more often I work with teachers to put music strategies in place in their classrooms to use as an aid to a calming and relaxing atmosphere for students with emotionally aggressive or agitated episodes. Music may be used for distraction, active engagement or relaxation to help a student calm down or re-focus his attention in a more productive direction. (I have discussed this in more detail here and here.)

This story from New Zealand also emphasized the importance of music preference. One of the keys to using music therapeutically is to find music that is appealing to the client. This principle has often been overlooked in research studies that have tried to prove that music helps in relaxation. There are also many products out on the market that use sound vibration or some kind of acoustic sound instrument to help in relaxation. While these strategies may work for some, I think most people will quickly become bored with the musical product or may not enjoy the music from the onset. They will not gain as much benefit from these therapies without liking the musical product.

I think the idea of using Barry Manilow music to keep teens away is a perfectly good idea and I would like to be there when the teenagers start hearing it! I think it might actually work. I like some Barry Manilow songs (after all, they are very singable!) but I hope they don't play so much that all the patrons are driven away!

...This one's for you...

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