Intervention Inspiration Series: Communication and Academic

As a new initiative for MTSA this summer, we are choosing to share different ideas for Music Therapy practice in the hopes that this will provide a valuable resource for beginning music therapists and as inspiration for practicing therapists. Every Monday, a different intervention idea will be presented. They will be very basic and will be best as beginning inspiration to be varied and adapted for different clinical settings. They may include specific music, but will typically only indicate the style of music to be incorporated.
The following basic format will be given for each intervention: 1) Activity, the type of intervention; 2) Target population, the intended client population for the intervention; 3) Materials, the instruments and supplies required; 4) Goals/Aims, ideas for goals or aims that could be addressed in the intervention; 5) Method, a detailed description of what would occur during the intervention; 6) Comments, an explanation of why this intervention is applicable for the given client population and how the goals/aims are addressed; and 7) Evaluation, questions to allow for reflection on whether or not the intervention was effective for a particular client or clients.


Printable Version (PDF File)

Communication and Academic

by Tamon Scarlett

 Intervention Series - Communication and Academic

Photo Source


Drum talking improvisation between client and therapist

Target Population:

Children (ages 3-10) affected by attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)


Drums (any sort; small and portable is best)

Comfortable seating (depending on the type of drums selected)

Quiet room, free of physical distractions


  • To provide opportunity for creative freedom within structure
  • To increase accurate responses in conversation
  • To target symptoms of impulsivity (i.e. delaying responses, turn taking, patience) in order to increase self-awareness in social situations
  • To provide the opportunity to focus on a set task, this also allows for a decrease in fidgeting, pacing, squirming, etc.
  • To provide the opportunity to follow instructions for an activity
  • To provide the opportunity to successfully complete a task and feel accomplished.
  • To increase auditory perception and spatial awareness
  • To provide a safe space for the expression of emotion and energy.


The music therapist will provide a comfortable space (chairs, soft floor space, etc.) before the client arrives to the session. The therapist will also try to make sure that there are minimal distractions (i.e. no other enticing musical instruments in the middle of the session space but can be moved to the sides of the room). The therapist will first give context by explaining to the client that drums have been used by many cultures to convey messages.

The therapist will ask the client to ‘say’ something/improvise using their drum. The music therapist may help by giving context or a topic if the client is hesitant. The music therapist will respond to the client with an improvisation to the client. The two will call, respond, and allow for drumming overlap until the ‘conversation’ is complete. The client will be encouraged to really listen before answering to work on impulsivity. The music therapist could also try this intervention with a group of children or have a client slowly do this activity with larger and larger groups (dyads, etc.) depending on the level of impulsivity. This activity can also be carried out by adding another music line such as voice, piano, or other percussion instruments.


Children and adolescents with ADHD struggle with impulsivity and patience. This allows for difficulties in social situations when they need to take turns speaking and having the patience to do so. This intervention targets these particular skills and puts them into the context of a fame, which can later be translated to corresponding life situations. It trains the central executive to control impulses more effectively. The client is involved in listening, waiting, turn-taking, creativity, and emotional expression throughout the intervention.

In many cases, youth with ADHD become frustrated and discouraged in struggles to complete tasks, and have feelings of incompetence. This activity provides the client(s) with the opportunity to not only create, but also participate in the fruition of an entire musical journey. This can bring about a sense of accomplishment and, if done multiple times, mastery for the client.

This intervention furnishes the right set of circumstances for belligerent and volatile drumming that is likely with ADHD clients. This sort of playing can act as a window into the constantly moving mind. The music therapist’s responses can provide context and containment for the client’s music. It meets the client where they are at and provides acceptance in a social and therapeutic situation.

As seen from this example, music therapy interventions for ADHD populations can address multiple goals.


Was the client confident or hesitant in playing the drums?

Was the client able to wait for his or her turn and respond accordingly to improvise?

Did the client demonstrate any recognition of contextual structure of the improvisation?

Is it possible for this client to attempt this intervention in a dyadic or larger group setting and feel achievement?

Did the participant feel joy and success during and after the intervention?

Was the client’s playing congruent with their affect?

How did you as the therapist respond to this?


About Laurier MTSA

We are a student association at Wilfrid Laurier University and most of our members are students in the Music Therapy program. We exist to educate about, promote, and support the work of music therapy, and to support the academic, career, and personal needs of the Music Therapy Students. Our mandate is to unite prospective, current and alumni students while promoting our profession in the larger community.
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