Resourceful Young Children

Resourceful Young Children
Learning Brief

The Music Therapy Community Clinic

Psychosocial support for ECD practitioners: The Music Therapy Community Clinic

Category: Resourceful Young Children | Comprehensive ECD package | 11 March, 2015 - 18:55


"Can’t you give our practitioners therapy? They are dealing with such terrible things in their own lives and in the lives of the children that they work with every day"

-- Comment from an ECD organisation manager --



The Music Therapy Community Clinic (MTCC) is a Non-Profit Organisation that provides Music Therapy services to underprivileged and previously disadvantaged communities in Cape Town. We see music as a social resource, and as a tool to help heal and strengthen communities and individuals.

Our vision is to use active music making to have an impact on the psychosocial fabric of the communities in South Africa.

We strive to strengthen the internal and relational resources of children through individual and group music therapy sessions, and to offer safe and creative spaces where they can master a musical skill, and become agents of change in their own lives. In addition, we aim to strengthen young people’s support systems by providing Capacity Building Workshops and Creative Music Facilitation training to childcare workers and teachers (ECD practitioners).

Care workers, educators, and facilitators in South Africa often work with children living in environments marked by high levels of poverty, stress, and social trauma. They may even live in these communities themselves. Yet there is little support or knowledge on how to deal with the emotional, physical and psychological challenges caused by such contexts. After recognizing this need to care for, and to help adequately prepare ECD practitioners for their work, we have begun to offer them the necessary support through our different training programmes.

In this learning brief we describe how the Capacity Building Workshops and Creative Music Facilitation initiatives help provide early childhood development (ECD) workers and teachers with much needed psycho-socio support.

Implementation lesson: Psycho-socio support is an essential resource for ECD practitioners

Over the past decade of working in under-resourced communities, we at the Music Therapy Community Clinic have become aware of how many ECD practitioners face “burn-out” and emotional stress because they do not receive adequate psycho-socio therapy and support to cope with the strain of their work. One of our ECD Programme's main objectives is to “strengthen and support practitioners existing skills and resources to work with young children.” We believe that psycho-socio support is an essential service that enables ECD practitioners to successfully do their job.

Originally, at the start of our programme we viewed the idea of providing “resources” in a narrow framework related to music and play activities that make space to express our underlying principles. However, our ECD team soon realised the need for more support services to ECD practitioners. This level of support is a vital resource because it established the path to intergenerational healing and care. For ECD practitioners to understand the importance of childhood development principles such as “validation,” “emotional healing,” or “providing a safe space to be heard”, they first need to experience these benefits for themselves.

Implications for MTCC: begin offering support during training workshops

Recognizing the need for more psycho-socio support our training and workshop programmes now incorporate activities that allow ECD practitioners the chance to begin their own healing and therapy process.

The MTCC's training programme certainly never set out to address this issue but we have adjusted the programme to better service the needs of our participants. The structure of our MTCC's training programme allows for personal growth, and sharing deep issues in a safe and caring environment. The programme contains three phases.

  • Phase 1 cover the ‘Music Child Process,’ and takes place over 2 days. During this phase, participants examine their own childhood; they explore the role of music, play and creativity in their own lives; and they are given the opportunity to share their new realizations.
  • Phase 2 two of our programme consists of numerous training workshops designed to cover specific themes related to music therapy. At the start of each workshop session the participants are encouraged to share freely about issues in their own lives. They also begin to address the intersections between the professional and personal boundaries in the workplace.
  • Phase 3 provides mentoring to the ECD practitioners. Our trained team members partner alongside the practitioners and help them to implement their newly acquired skills with the children in their care.

Through every programme phase we provide much needed emotional and psychological support. However our support role is rather limited by our ability and we are reviewing ways to increase the support capacity.

Broader Implications: the need for long-term psycho-socio support

After our training programmes end many of the practitioners express the need to continue meeting together, or to continue receiving psycho-socio support. Some of the comments that have emerged during feedback sessions speak of this need in the practitioners' own words:

"It (the training group) has brought togetherness... the group allows me to be honest and open."

"We don’t talk much at work, or have time to get to know each other. The group has given me a closeness... It has made me realise that there are people who value me."

"This group to me…we are family now… It makes my job easier."

We believe that the wider community of practice needs to step-up and help provide more long-term psycho-socio support. The opportunities for organisations within the ECD sector to get involved seem endless. Here are three suggestions:

  • For instance, organisations could follow our lead and provide ways for their practitioners to connect with each emotionally, and share on this deeper level. This could happen during workshops, training sessions, monthly meetings, or through mentoring programmes.
  • Management within these organisations can improve their knowledge about the importance of ECD practitioners feeling valued and validated in the work environment. Using this knowledge management can construct long-term support systems that offer both positive and constructive feedback to each practitioner about their work.
  • ECD organisations could encourage/require all their practitioners to visit psycho-socio support services on a regular basis. Help identify service providers and specialist therapists and make this service available to ECD practitioners.

P O Box 2069 Cape Town Claremont Western Cape South Africa


In Short

This learning brief advocates for the provision of more psychosocial support for ECD practitioners. It offers a working short-term solution and calls on the wider community of practice to seek longer-term strategies for care support.

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