Selective Mutism Research

Music Therapy and Selective Mutism

Our Director – Kate Jones – is currently undertaking a PhD at Anglia Ruskin University on the use of Music Therapy for young children with Selective Mutism (SM). This research was motivated by her clinical experience of the positive benefits of Music Therapy for children with SM.

The study involves the collection of multiple data sets including a national survey and interviews of Music Therapists working with children with Selective Mutism,  interviews of other professionals treating children with Selective Mutism and multiple case studies of Music Therapy intervention. The data collection stage is now complete and Kate hopes to complete the research during 2017.

Initial outcomes from the research were presented at the British Association for Music Therapy -BAMT- conference in Glasgow and at the 10th European Music Therapy conference in Vienna, both in 2016. This is the abstract for the latter presentation.


“How intense is this silence?”  Multiple method research investigating Music Therapy for young children with Selective Mutism

 Kate Jones- Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, United Kingdom
 Background:  Selective Mutism (SM) is a debilitating anxiety disorder that can affect children when they begin school or nursery. The usual presentation is a persistent lack of speech in the education setting, contrasting with confident speech at home. The long-term impact of the disorder, if untreated, can be severe. There is some evidence to suggest Music Therapy is helpful but a clearer understanding of the therapeutic process is needed.
 Methods: Literature reviews, survey and interviews with Music Therapists, and multiple case studies of Music Therapy for young children with SM were used to evaluate and refine a theoretical framework describing Music Therapy as an intervention for SM.  A heuristic approach was used to analyse and synthesise data.
 Results: Preliminary analysis across datasets supports and enriches key aspects of the framework. Playful improvisation, oral instruments and the opportunity to make loud sounds emerge as key features of the Music Therapy process.
 Discussion: Initial findings suggest a positive contribution for Music Therapy as part of a multi-modal approach to the treatment of SM in young children, and will inform the development of clinical guidelines.
Keywords: Music Therapy; Selective Mutism; Early intervention; Anxiety disorders; Case study research.
Funding: This work was supported by ‘The Music Therapy Charity’

If you would like to read a copy of Kate’s article, published in 2012 in the British Journal of Music Therapy,  please email us and this can be sent to you as a PDF. Here is a summary PDF. Alternatively it is available to purchase from:

Kate has also published a chapter in the book ‘Tackling Selective Mutism’- Edited by Benita Rae-Smith and Alice Sluckin – published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers.


Tackling SM 1


Jones, K (2012) ‘How intense is this silence? Developing a theoretical framework for the use of Psychodynamic Music Therapy in the treatment of Selective Mutism in Children with English as an additional language: A heuristic case study’ British Journal of Music Therapy 26(2) 15-28


In June 2017 Kate Jones attended a reception at the house of commons to highlight the issue of Selective Mutism and the work of the UK based Selective Mutism charity, Selective Mutism Information and Research Association – SMIRA- to members of parliament.




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