THE USE OF TOUCH WITH OLDER ADULTS IN MUSIC THERAPY SESSIONS
Hughes, Marcus James
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The purpose of this study was to explore how board-certified music therapists are currently using touch with older adults in clinical music therapy settings, what factors influence the use of touch, and which, if any, trainings are being implemented. Three forms of touch were defined and used in this study including: simple touch, protracted touch, and dynamic touch. Previous research within the music therapy and related fields suggest that touch is an important variable for consideration within a therapeutic context, and that there is potential for benefit by older adult clients. The independent variables analyzed were gender, race/ ethnicity, personality type, region, age, years of experience, philosophical/ theoretical orientation, diagnoses served, settings served, caseload, functions of touch, reasons for restriction of touch, and training received. A survey was created and sent using emails for 973 board-certified music therapists who identified as working with the geriatric population that were purchased from the Certification Board for Music Therapist. Of those individuals, 186 people completed the survey and met the inclusion criteria. Several findings were generated from this study. First, participants indicated using simple touch more frequently than protracted touch. Few participants indicated using dynamic touch on a frequent basis, and no participants indicated being most likely to use dynamic touch compared to simple or protracted touch. Second, the results provide support for the conclusion that diagnosis, setting, functions of touch, restrictions for touch, gender, personality type, region, philosophical orientation, and personal beliefs are all factors that may potentially influence a music therapists use of touch. Finally, the majority of participants who indicated providing massage or more advanced forms of therapeutic touch to clients indicated having received some form of advanced training or supervision from a qualified professional. As a result of this study, it can be concluded that touch is an important factor for consideration by music therapists working with older adults, that touch can have potential for benefit and harm to older adults, and that more training and education is needed in order to better prepare music therapists for appropriate use of touch within a therapeutic context.