KHF Outreach
Listening to a Different Tune: Music Therapy Strikes a Chord in Adults and Children at the IFH
12th August 2008

A cacophony of drums, symbols, xylophones and guitars can be heard reverberating through the walls at the Institute for Family Health (IFH). This unfamiliar sound is coming from a room off the main entrance, where a group of 10 children are enthusiastically strumming and beating instruments.


They are taking part in a music therapy session, an initiative launched by the IFH in May in collaboration with the King Hussein Foundation's National Music Conservatory and Music in ME, a non-governmental organization dedicated to supporting the development of musical life in the Middle East. Some of the children in the room have behavioral problems, some are trauma victims, and others are taking part just for fun.


"Music can have a deeply emotional effect on all of us, no matter what our circumstances are," says music teacher Mounzer Sarraf. "When music is used as a therapeutic tool, it can help to improve communication between individuals and within groups, as well as build trust and self-esteem."


Sarraf teaches a unique approach to music therapy at the IFH, which he co-created six years ago with his friend Simon Corthouts. The "Groove Method", or "Grome", uses improvised music-making to form a relationship between student and therapist.


Rather than simply teaching students to play an instrument, Grome actively engages them in their own development by encouraging the use of instruments as a means of finding their own way of expressing themselves, and to develop concentration, listening, communicating and relating skills. Students are then able to transfer their musical and non-musical skills to other aspects of their life.


“The purpose is not to become a great musician. Musical skills will improve without a doubt, but the process of learning these skills brings about many other positive effects in the students, such as the ability to communicate their feelings, learning to be patient, following directions and making choices," Sarraf says.


The Grome sessions, which are conducted in groups and on a one-to-one basis, are assisting adults and children who face a range of problems, such as learning difficulties, post-traumatic stress disorder and physical disabilities. Sarraf and his team work alongside the IFH’s psychologists to assess students’ progress.


"Each session teaches us something different about the students. We can identify problems, improvement or worsening in behavior, their response to treatment, and more. The psychologists and my team share observations on the students to track their development," Sarraf explains.


Among the students is the Saifi family. Lujain Saifi brings her son and daughter to the sessions once a week. Her son, nine-year old Yahiya, has ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), while her daughter, eleven-year old Tala, suffers from anxiety attacks after being bullied at school.


“I’ve noticed a change in them both,” says Lujain. “Before, I couldn’t hold Yahiya’s attention for more than a minute, but I’m starting to see a real improvement in his behavior. He’s more attentive and more patient. Tala is really starting to come out of her shell, too.”


Many of the children and adults who attend the sessions are Iraqis who moved to Jordan to escape the war. “Most of these Iraqis are victims of trauma, some with very serious psychological problems,” says IFH Director, Dr. Manal Tahtamouni. “Music has huge potential to rehabilitate children and adults traumatized by conflict and greatly enhance their quality of life. Even though it is still early days, we are receiving very positive feedback from them, and are starting to see positive results.”


She adds:  â€œOur overall aim is that, through these sessions, our patients can learn to come to terms with their trauma and gradually overcome their suffering.”

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