Pedagogical Implications for Teaching Students with a History of Sexual Trauma: An Essay regarding the Q&A Session following the Presentation

Grace Johnson

Abstract


Singers with a history of sexual trauma may respond differently from the general population to standard vocal pedagogical approaches. Psychological and somatic response to sexual trauma can impact the most basic elements of singing, such as breathing, muscle synergism, performance excitement, and memory. Furthermore, symptoms associated with post-trauma can compromise not only vocal performance but also the voice itself. Some conventional pedagogical practices can be ineffective and even harmful for singers dealing with effects of post-trauma. This is especially evident in exercises, therapies, and techniques that address breathing and relaxation. The teacher with an overall understanding of symptoms of post-trauma and their significance to singing will be better equipped to make decisions about touch, breathing, relaxation exercises, referrals, and/or other areas in which a students response might differ from the norm. A teacher so informed will be less likely to be caught off-guard, more likely to avoid harm, and, ideally, better equipped to assist students in recovery of their voicesthe literal singing voice and the figurative voice of self-hood. The figurative use of the word voice as self is found throughout the psychology literature regarding trauma. The secrecy associated with sexual assault is described as silencing the voice and healing from post-trauma effects is termed finding ones voice. In addition, the loss of voice for a singer is compounded by grief and crisis of identity. Nonetheless, teachers can be assured that the act of singing carries the power to heal psychological injury--singing can heal the singer. They are in a privileged position to guide the injured student toward recovery.

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