Book Review: Vocal Psychotherapy by Diane Austin

I’m thrilled to offer you the new video series – Music Makin Mondays! Every Monday I will give you a new video all about making music. I’ll be answering questions from readers, introducing books I’ve read, and showing off snazzy little music-making techniques in the upcoming weeks.

Let me just say . . . I had to think long and hard about doing this. Putting something down as a regular thing in the ol’ calendar is a bit of a struggle for this spinning-dozens-of-plates, 5 million-ideas-a-minute, look-something-shiny kinda gal.

But if there is ONE thing I am committed to, it’s finding fun, unique ways to help you thrive. Let me know what you think of the first video of the series!

Today I’m giving a quick review of Diane Austin’s book Vocal Psychotherapy. It’s a must-read for anyone who uses the voice in therapy. Ummmm, that would probably be most of you reading this 😉

Click play to watch the video!

Click here to tweet this awesome quote from Vocal Psychotherapy.

You can purchase Vocal Psychotherapy from Amazon here.

Now, let’s hear about YOUR experiences in using the voice! Leave a comment below that describes a time you used the voice for healing or therapy.

35 Responses to Book Review: Vocal Psychotherapy by Diane Austin

  1. JoAnn Jordan January 9, 2012 at 8:05 am #

    Several years ago I used singing without instrumental accompaniment with a few clients at bedside. Often these were clients at the late stages of dementia. The voice alone seemed to bring a quieting response.

    • Kat Fulton January 9, 2012 at 7:42 pm #

      I love using the voice alone within close proximity for people at the end-of-life and in late stage dementia. I can definitely relate to this, JoAnn. Thanks for your comment.

    • Brenda Keen January 10, 2012 at 7:04 pm #

      I continually experience the magic and power of music & voice. Music & singing has always been part of my life and family. My mother and father were both musical, great voices, and both passed peacefully with me singing directly into their ears. My father was moving his hand to the lilting rhythm as I repeatedly sang “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling”. My mother suffered multiple strokes which left her with aphyasia. When I would sing or play music she would hum along in tune, and from time to time, as clear as a bell, sing a lyric or two! I sang her favorite song, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”, in her ear over and over as she peacefully passed. She even tried to sing with me. Beautiful!

    • Karli January 11, 2012 at 4:59 pm #

      During my internship a few years ago, I did a research project with clients with dementia using just my voice to reduce agitation in the evenings. I have a lot of fond memories from the experience. The great thing was that I saw a drop in agitated behaviors even an hour after I’d sung with each client.

  2. Anonymous January 9, 2012 at 8:52 am #

    I love these books that tell stories and let you into someone’s process while they work!
    So, in answer to your question…using only the voice in my work…

    I’m not a music therapist per say, but the parents at my studio often tell me I am. I’ll just share some of my experiences with voice…

    1. I work with children and we use a TON of equipment for all kinds of reasons. I never have a session with just voice cause most of the children would lose interest. When I used to work with infants under 9 months, I used the voice more than anything. It was very calming for moms to have me sing to them. Probably calming for baby too:)…I just noticed a shift in energy with moms.

    2. When I’m with my 97-year old grandmother we sing, no instruments, voice only. When she was in a coma in the hospital, we sang…no instruments. That time, she came out of her coma and didn’t die. When she was in hospital and sick but not in a coma, I sang to her…no instruments. Huge powerful, emotional for me and seemed to be oh-so-satisfying for her. Sometimes I record her on the iPhone and play it back for her…she always sings along:)

    3. I often hum, tone or sing to myself when going through my day. It’s unconscious and I will realize I’m doing that at some point while I’m doing it. I notice at those moments that I feel good. I don’t know if I felt good and started to do it or if I started to do it in order to feel good:)

    4. This Christmas my cousin and I created a recording of a Ukrainian Christmas carol for our grandmother. We had already recorded instrumental tracks. The second day we were rehearsing the singing turned into a mini-therapy session for me!

    As we were la-la-ing the melody (because neither of us speak Ukrainian) my tears started. There was nothing I could do about it. I told her to just keep singing and I would work it out. It took me more than 40 minutes to “work it out”. I kept singing along with her just not very well…

    Eventually I sang and walked, sang and sat, sang and tidied,sang and stretched and could not stop. Finally, I started writing out the phrasing on paper while we were singing and I was able to stop. I guess the pen-to-paper moved me into my left brain and I could “function” again.

    There was such a deep, almost primal connection to this melody we were singing because I’ve really only heard it sung before by my grandmother, her sisters and their daughters. One of those things that only the voice accesses for me.

    I think I’ve written a lot…! Hope that’s okay:)

  3. Susan January 9, 2012 at 8:54 am #

    Hi Kat! Sorry, that was me above…I clicked submit before I filled in my data!

    • Kat Fulton January 9, 2012 at 7:44 pm #

      Susan – I always LOVE reading your stories about how you work/play/sing. You are sooooo creative and ALIVE. And sensitive. I’m so similar to you. I cry all the time for sentiment =) Thank you for sharing all this with us!

  4. Janice Harris Lindstrom, MA, MT-BC January 9, 2012 at 9:00 am #

    In the weeks up to my wedding, I had this fluttery, anxious sensation in my heart-center area. I toned with my voice a note that seemed to feel good and it made the sensation go away and I felt calmer!

    • Kat Fulton January 9, 2012 at 7:45 pm #

      HUGE congrats on your wedding, Janice! It’s great to hear how toning helped you work through those feelings. Powerful.

  5. Anne January 9, 2012 at 9:13 am #

    I use voice flexing cards by DeAnna Venable with my young clients who have speech communicaton goals. They are fun cards with vowel sounds or short words that are arranged along squiggly lines for the children to follow with their fingers as well as their voices. Good for small motor control too!

    • Kat Fulton January 9, 2012 at 7:46 pm #

      Hi Anne! I will definitely have to check those cards out – Sounds awesome. I bet Rachel See Smith would love to check them out, too…. I will share with her. Thanks!

  6. Meghan Callaghan January 9, 2012 at 9:51 am #

    Just did some toning last night in a sweat lodge with friends. It’s such lovely way to get the mind centered and tune in to my body. In the therapy/healing arena, I notice that using just the voice can bring up a lot of vulnerabilities, so when someone becomes comfortable using just their voice, it can be so powerful!

    • Kat Fulton January 9, 2012 at 7:48 pm #

      So true! I would’ve loved to have been there with you. Sounds like an amazing experience.

  7. Merritt January 9, 2012 at 10:08 am #

    I don’t have a voice and can’t carry a tune but I have a beautiful voice in my head. Recently I played the 45 year old movie,”Sound of Music” with Julie Andrews and the children singing those marvelous songs When I feel tired or rundown now I just replay the songs beautifully in my head and feel refreshed.

    • Kat Fulton January 9, 2012 at 7:49 pm #

      Don’t you just LOVE that beautiful voice in our heads??? I often command it to sing an opera aria to me just before going to bed. Thanks for sharing, Merritt!

    • Brenda Keen January 10, 2012 at 7:09 pm #

      You don’t have to play an instrument or be able to sing. . .you just have to “get music”!

      Everyone has a song in their heart!

  8. Emily January 9, 2012 at 10:48 am #

    I took Diane’s class at a GLR regional conference a few years ago, and she is amazing! I have been meaning to read her book for some time now!

    • Kat Fulton January 9, 2012 at 7:50 pm #

      Awesome Emily! I have yet to meet Dr. Austin in person, but hope to some time.

      • Brenda Keen January 10, 2012 at 7:14 pm #

        Dr. Austin’s dad was a legendary jazz pianist in the Boston area who recently passed at 90. He was gigging up to 2 weeks before he passed. I was with him the evening he passed only after listening and watching his favorite tune by Coleman Hawkins, “Body & Soul” on YouTube. He was a beautiful man and talent. His name. . . Mr. Al Vega.

  9. Rachel January 9, 2012 at 11:40 am #

    Thank you, Kat, for sharing about this book. I will definitely ad it to my must read list.

    I use my voice alone all the time. Sometimes I need both hands free to help my clients and when I am working on improving speech articulation, leaving the instrument out really lets the client focus on the vocal production of the sounds.

    • Kat Fulton January 9, 2012 at 7:51 pm #

      That’s what I’m saying – I love having my hands free during sessions as well. And using the voice alone seems so primal and instinctive anyway… Thanks for sharing, Rachel =)

  10. Erin January 9, 2012 at 5:02 pm #

    Thanks for this video- it’s a book I’ve had my eye on after taking a workshop with Diane in NYC a few years back.

    I hold so much respect for the voice, especially overcoming so many vocal blocks as a non-vocalist music therapist. I do use vocal work mostly in wellness settings- but a bit with children. My daughter only heard unaccompanied vocal music for pretty much the first 18 months of her life- we just sang all the time because it was so accessible and flexible.

    I love toning and CAN’T WAIT for your workshop on Wednesday!!!

    Keep it coming, Kat. Your energy and enthusiasm is infectious!

    • Kat Fulton January 9, 2012 at 7:52 pm #

      I’m a non-vocalist music therapist who has also found deep respect for the voice.

      Can’t wait to have you in the class, Erin! Looking forward =)

  11. Carol January 9, 2012 at 8:22 pm #

    Your review was great – so concise yet full of info. Thanks! I am looking forward to the session on Wednesday. I hate to say I am not really familiar with the term ‘toning’ so I have a lot to learn. As far as using the voice alone, I have done so with children in various settings just so my total focus could be on them. I have had clients begin singing voluntarily and have either allowed them to finish alone or joined them in harmony which makes for a unique connection. In melodic intonation therapy, one of the NMT techniques, the voice alone is used along with gentle rhythmic tapping on the client’s hand. These are a few things that come to mind…

    • Kat Fulton January 11, 2012 at 8:24 am #

      Wow – nice brainstorm there Carol. So many ways to use the voice! Our instrument we carry everywhere =) Looking forward to toning with you tonight!

  12. Laurie Schwartz-Friedman January 10, 2012 at 4:02 am #

    Dear Kat,

    Thank you for sharing your passion and your depth of understanding about how Diane has taken her life’s work and brought her process forward for the community at large.

    I have been a very close friend of Diane’s for the past 35 years and it has been a juicy and rich journey.. since we both evolved personally and professionally side by side.

    I do use sound in my work as a body-centered somatic psychotherapist. I do touch the majority of my clients to support mindfulness and embodiment. I also utilize many “hands” on approaches that restore self-regulation and resiliency to the psyche.

    I will often gently coach my clients to hum and then make sounds as part of self-attachment and reestablishing the bond of self-love and awareness of embodiment.
    It is very intimate and I also “join” them in their sounds as a way of helping them feel safe, supported, grounded and feeling connected.
    For many people who have come from peri-natal or pre-natal trauma and developmental trauma.. they do not have a sense of self before.. the development of emotions and cognition. For me.. the sounds are primal and they also take away the potential for judgement that can come later on.. when a child does attempt to sing and then may experience judgements.

    A long answer to a short question. As I became more playful and free and spontaneous with my voice.. I was able to be a loving “psychobiological regulator” for those clients who are also coming out of the effects of trauma: freeze, fight- flight and/or dissociation.
    Music and sound are such beautiful ways to help someone re-associate to themselves as well as a way to restore creative self regulation and emotional resiliency.

    I do have a few articles that I would be happy to share with you.. which involve.. dialogue and ways to support clients in returning to mindfulness of their bodies..

    I do feel that we can be touched.. with sounds, vibrations as well as a person who is coming from love. How much of what we do communicate is coming from the invisible?

    so much. right!

    Thank’s for bringing your passion and message forward.

    Laurie Schwartz-Friedman
    New York Center for Somatic Psychotherapy and Trauma Resoution
    20 West 64th Street
    New York N.Y. 10023

    • Kat Fulton January 11, 2012 at 8:26 am #

      Hi Laurie – Welcome to the community and thank you for sharing your work! If I were in NYC I’d be knockin on your door =) I hope we can connect you to some kindred spirits around here. It’s inspiring to hear about what you do.

  13. John Morley January 10, 2012 at 7:08 am #


    As a musician/composer I am always looking for ways to “tap into” the human psyche. I find that computers and electronics provide a broad pallet for this. While I often feel I have hit a brick wall in encouraging music therapists to expand beyond the somewhat stayed and traditional pallet of musical instruments, I will continue encourage music therapists to expand their horizons.

    That being said, I appreciate what music therapists are doing and I often find insights into my own music by reading music therapy blogs and tweets.

    Please be assured of my support for music therapy and perhaps on day our respective disciplines can find ways to collaborate and using my own phrase “cross the steams”.

    • Kat Fulton January 11, 2012 at 8:27 am #

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts here John. There’s plenty of space and time for collaboration and learning from one another. So many fields overlap. Best wishes~

  14. Peta Minter January 11, 2012 at 7:59 pm #

    Wow Kat, love the video, great job.

    Keeping us healthy facilitators is a must or we are unabe to give to our clients, thank you for the reminder…mmm time to get on the bike and go for a ride.

    I have used a lot of singing in my African drumming workshops, whether it’s a corporate or school, singing has worked a treat. How can I explain it…mmm…it’s a little like a group meditation and a great break from the volume of the djembes.

    Singing I feel is a must in any workshops.

    Cheers Peta

    • Kat Fulton January 12, 2012 at 8:04 pm #

      Cheers Peta for good health in 2012! Now you’re inspiring me to get on the bike, too =)

  15. Antoinette Morrison January 13, 2012 at 2:56 pm #

    I have used the voice alone with autistic non-verbal children when they get to a certain point. I have put their hands on my throat while singing and often this seems to be what helps them to the next point in vocalizing. Also I accidentally found great resonance when bringing my head inside the open lid of my baby grand. What resonance that brought about, along with alertness on the behalf of my client.

    • Kat Fulton January 30, 2012 at 8:36 am #

      Nice Antoinette! Thanks for sharing your experiences working with kids who have autism.

  16. CJ Shiloh January 30, 2012 at 8:21 am #

    Hi Kat! I’m thinking about buying this book! Does she make any correlations with Alexander Method? That is a an approach I’ve learned and benefited from, for myself and for the people I work with.

    • Kat Fulton January 30, 2012 at 8:37 am #

      I don’t remember her mentioning Alexander technique, but it would be a good addition to your library, for sure!

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