Doctoral Dissertation

13.10.2018 M.A. Olivier Brabant (Department of Music, Art and Culture Studies, Music Therapy)


13.10.2018 12:00 — 15:00

Location: Seminaarinmaki , S212
M.A. Olivier Brabant defends his doctoral dissertation in Music Therapy: "Using altered states of consciousness in improvisational music therapy: The potential of resonance frequency breathing”.

Opponent Professor Cheryl Dileo (Temple University) and Custos Professor Jaakko Erkkilä (University of Jyväskylä). The doctoral dissertation is held in English.


Improvisational music therapy is a type of creative arts therapy in which clients are encouraged to express themselves through the symbolic and non-verbal medium of music, by creating free music improvisations together with the therapist. The present research aims at investigating whether the efficacy of this method can be further enhanced by purposefully accessing the ego-quieting properties of altered states of consciousness.

This work proceeds in three main steps. First, the notions of consciousness and its alteration are examined and reformulated, resulting in a more comprehensive theoretical model. Then, existing methods for inducing altered states of consciousness are evaluated in terms of suitability for the context of improvisational music therapy. This leads to the selection of resonance frequency breathing (RFB), a cardiorespiratory intervention known for its ability to balance the autonomic nervous system, reduce stress, and improve emotional regulation. Lastly, the effects and potential benefits of RFB are investigated through three single-case experimental studies, where 10 minutes of RFB are added at the beginning of every other therapy session, in alternation with a control intervention.

The results suggest that RFB has the ability to both deepen and support the processes naturally occurring during therapy, by either favouring the emergence of difficult emotions and therapeutically relevant themes, or helping with the regulation of excessive arousal, depending on the client’s current needs and coping abilities. Therefore, RFB seems to be an adaptive intervention whose apparent therapy-enhancing effects should also result in better outcomes. This last point is currently being investigated in a randomised controlled trial of improvisational music therapy for adults with depression.

Keywords: improvisational music therapy, resonance frequency breathing, consciousness, altered state of consciousness, heart rate variability, emotional regulation