As music therapists we are skilled at using various musical elements to systematically help us achieve or bring about a desired behavior.

In my work with children with autism and other special needs, I use the V7 chord to build anticipation and prompt a verbal response. (“It’s a….it’s a…!”)

I use a 6/8 meter to facilitate swaying side to side.

I use a rhythmic, upbeat strum pattern to cue quick movement patterns like shaking the legs and arms.

However, I’ve come to find that one of the most powerful tools I have at my disposal is….


That time you pause as you wait for a client to process the directions you’ve given. That space between the notes. The time you wait for your client to give you a verbal response….or eye contact…or another behavior you’re trying to elicit in your sessions.

This is something I used to struggle with. Every moment of every session was filled with sound. I was strumming the guitar…I was praising….I was singing…I was giving verbal directions. All of that can be incredibly over stimulating. Soon none of it stands out and it all becomes tuned out.

So I started slowly incorporating more silence into my sessions.

I would strum a V7 chord as I sang “Your name is……” and let the chord fade away into silence as I waited for the response.

Rather than prompting again by repeating the phrase or saying the client’s name hoping he would repeat, I would just wait.

I would listen to the silence and know that the client was processing what I was saying and formulating a response.

When I did this I began to see that my clients had much more to give than I was allowing them when I covered it up with sound and music and my talking.

They knew what I was asking and knew the response, they just needed time. And silence.

I’m curious to hear…have you experienced something similar in your practice? How has incorporating silence into your sessions improved your practice?

Leave a comment below…I’d love to know!


Image courtesy of [David Castillo] /