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The Musicality of Therapeutic Conversations

Dr Stephen Malloch

Therapy requires the patient and therapist to be in a mutually aware relationship. An underlying characteristic of this relationship is that both parties aim towards ‘feeling felt’. The human necessity for ‘feeling felt’ is at the very beginning of the human journey. In a sensitive caregiver-infant relationship the infant and caregiver ‘take in’ the other’s inner state through giving their awareness purposefully to the other’s communicative gestures. This ‘taking in’ is confirmed moment-by-moment through the ‘giving back’ (mirroring) of these gestures. But for the relationship to be alive, in the giving back there must also be the addition of the other person’s inner state. In adulthood this intersubjectively shaped storytelling, created through gestures and words, characterises the space where trauma can be healed in relationship. 

ANZAP 25th Annual Conference, 
18 - 21 September 2014 
State Library of NSW, Sydney, Australia
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Stephen Malloch
Stephen Malloch
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Dr Stephen Malloch

Stephen Malloch gained his doctorate in music and psychoacoustics from the University of Edinburgh. This was followed by a postdoctoral fellowship in Psychology at the University of Edinburgh working with Prof Colwyn Trevarthen, and then an ongoing position as Research Fellow at The MARCS Institute, Department of Psychology, University of Western Sydney. In the late 2000s he moved into private practice as a counsellor and executive coach, with a particular interest in the application of mindfulness and meditation in communication and decision making. Stephen maintains his interest in research psychology through a research position in the Westmead Psychotherapy Program, Sydney Medical School, University of Sydney. His research interests focus on the ‘communicative musicality’ of human interactions - how we shape interpersonal time expressively and communicatively using purposeful gestural narratives of voice and body. His research began in parent-infant communication, moved to investigating the qualities and effectiveness of music therapy, especially with hospitalised infants, and now focusses on the musicality of conversations between psychotherapist and client as expressions of self. Stephen is passionate about understanding and facilitating human interactions that encourage healing and well-being. He aims to combine academic research and theory building with real-world practice and education in a way that helps both himself and others to live with greater peace, companionship and vitality.

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