The role of music therapy in the treatment of a girl with pervasive refusal syndrome: Exploring approaches to empowerment

The role of music therapy in the treatment of a girl with pervasive refusal syndrome: Exploring approaches to empowerment

Abstract

Pervasive Refusal Syndrome (PRS) is a life threatening psychiatric disorder, which is characterized by a refusal to eat, drink, talk, walk or maintain any level of self-care. In this article, it is suggested that music therapy may provide a unique role that is supportive, validating and empowering for patients with PRS. The rare condition of PRS predominantly affects girls between 8--16 years of age who, if managed well, are expected to recover completely (Lask, 2004). Literature has linked PRS to the theory of learned helplessness and as such, has highlighted the need for patients to control the pace of recovery (Nunn & Thompson, 1996). The value of music therapy interventions to provide opportunities for choice and control, and thus empowerment, is well documented. Similarly, music therapy theory and practice supports the use of improvisation to provide affirmation, validation, and support. This article examines the role of music therapy in the treatment of an 11-year-old girl with PRS in an acute medical setting. It explores how choice provision and improvisation may foster empowerment through the promotion of opportunities for control, validation, and affirmation. Clinical vignettes illustrate how these interventions may establish a therapeutic relationship, provide acknowledgement, containment, and offer a nonverbal form of support for a patient with PRS.

 

Keywords: Pervasive Refusal Syndrome, empowerment, choice and control, supportive listening, vocal improvisation


Citation

van der Walt, M., & Baron, A. (2006). The role of music therapy in the treatment of a girl with pervasive refusal syndrome: Exploring approaches to empowerment. Australian Journal of Music Therapy, 17, 35-53.


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Date published: July 2006