What to expect from Sound Therapy: What is it anyway?!
Sound Healing in the West is a relatively new concept, and it is becoming more and more popular. You may have seen facilitators running group sound healing sessions, and if you have attended, you would expect to find an eclectic array of instruments including gongs, drums, didgeridoos, guitar, voice work and over toning, percussion and many, many more.
Sound Therapy is a lesser-known branch of this type of work. Think music therapy, counselling, talking, listening and a person-centred approach, governed by a professional body - The Therapeutic Sound Association. The BAST (British Academy of Sound Therapy) method – designed by the founder of the Therapeutic Sound Association works to combine therapeutic sound and voice work with self-reflection, mindfulness and self-awareness.
When you arrive to a Sound Therapy session, your practitioner will take a case history from you, as this will help them to get a picture of your every day life and devise a session that is specific to you. For example, they may ask if you have any hearing related medical issues such as tinnitus in order to work with the condition. As Sound Therapy is a talking therapy, the practitioner may also ask you questions about your emotional, mental, physical and spiritual states, and any relevant or recent events that you wish to mention before the session begins. In this way together therapist and client can start to build an idea of intention for the session.
The information given here will allow for the practitioner to create a sonic prescription for you. The idea is to think of yourself on a line of equilibrium, and for the sound to bring you to the centre, for example if you are feeling very sluggish and tired and want energising then this can be reflected in the quality of the sound given, and vice versa. Different instruments will be used for different states of mind. For example, a frame drum may be used for an energizing session, or for someone who feels that they would like something very structured and safe.
The aim of this balancing is to bring you into the alpha-theta state, which is the state that we enter just before we go to sleep. In this state, we have the potential to process a lot of emotions, because we are in a meditative and relaxed position. After the sonic treatment, the session proceeds into exploring the experiences of the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual bodies during the sound.
The practitioner will be trained to talk to you in a completely person-centered and client led, with guidance through the “Cooper-Sax 5 R’s method” – Resonance, Resistance, Release, Reflection and Responsibility. In this way, you can be guided through whatever you feel comfortable to talk about or do in that time, which may even be no talking at all.
Research undertaken at BAST (and also independently) has shown that the methodology is 16% more relaxing than conventional relaxation music (1), 6% more relaxing than other treatments such as massage (1) and, on average, 64% more relaxing than other general relaxation methods (2).
Sound therapy is also extremely effective with regard to group and community work – our research has consistently shown positive benefits with regard to community sound work. (3)
For more information on Sound Therapy, please do not hesitate to get in touch with me.
1. Research undertaken at Mindlab, Sussex University
2. Research by Cook, R (2003), The Effects of a BAST Sound Therapy Session on the Autonomic Nervous System
3. Research by Cooper, L (2009), Introducing the Therapeutic Sound in Schools Programme (TheSiS)
4. Research by Cooper, L (2013), Sound Affects – the effect of therapeutic sound on consciousness.