Mikaela obtained her Clinical Masters in Music Therapy at the University of Pretoria in 2003. In the years that followed, she pursued further study in Play Therapy and Expressive Arts Therapy, which integrate all of the expressive and creative arts (dance, drama, art, poetry, song writing and music) into the therapeutic process.
Mikaela is a member of the South African Music Therapy Association (SAMTA), the South Africa Network for Arts Therapies Organisation (SANATO), as well as the International Expressive Arts Therapy Association (IEATA), for which she is the African Regional Representative.
She is a part-time external examiner and clinical supervisor for the University of Pretoria’s Music Therapy Masters Programme, and lectures annually at Rhodes University as a guest lecturer in their Music, Health and the Brain semester course.
Mikaela was a founding member of Canaan Care Centre, an NPO edu-therapy centre for children with severe and profound physical and mental disabilities. She served as Director from 2005 to 2009.
She subsequently joined Living Waters, an NPO, where she worked as part of their multi-disciplinary team assisting at-risk women and children. Her role included providing therapy to the children who were living in safe-houses, predominantly survivors of domestic, physical and sexual abuse. During this time she also established a part-time private practice.
Mikaela has served as school therapist at Clarendon Preparatory School in East London since 2012. She integrates music therapy, play therapy and expressive arts therapy techniques in her sessions, and implements the Protective Behaviours Programme as part of the school's life-skills programme.
In her private practice, Mikaela specialises in Trauma, Bereavement, Anxiety, Depression, and Developmental Delay.
Music is a significant part of each of our identities. It forms part of our culture and our society. It plays a role in our daily life, whether it be background music, or we choose it purposefully. Music can be used to influence our mood or reflect our mood.
We also communicate musically. Our voices each have their own individual 'fingerprint', we can recognise those we know well by the pitch and the speed and the quality of their voice just by hearing them talk. In the same way, our bodies communicate musically, telling a story of how we are feeling. We use phrases like 'wound up', 'stressed out', or 'doubled over with grief'. All these describe the state of our body, and can be interpreted musically or reflected in a piece of music - classical or contemporary.
Therapy describes the action of a developing relationship where aspects of listening, waiting, communication, and sympathetic understanding allow for the development towards wholeness, growth, healing and greater insight into the self.
Music Therapists work with a variety of client groups with a range of conditions, such as psychological disorders, physical disabilities or conditions with a neurological basis. Music Therapists work with children and adults in schools, hospitals, clinics or private settings.
In therapy sessions, the use of music is clinically informed, meaning that the outcome of the music used is for a non-musical purpose. Music Therapists use a variety of techniques that include musical improvisation, performance, composition, movement, vocalisation and listening.
In some instances, the musical activities may extend towards and include, extra-musical elements such as storytelling, art, drama, and play.
The dynamic nature of the musical medium demands ongoing evaluation and reviewing of the relevance of therapeutic goals.
(HPCSA Scope of Practice for Arts Therapies, 1999, p. 2)
All humans are communicative beings possessing an innate desire and ability to apply themselves expressively and creatively. However, for children, play is the natural means through which they learn about their world and communicate with others. It is therefore possible to say that all forms of play are an expression of the internal perceptions and emotions, as well as a child’s thoughts and ideas.
During the Play Therapy process, children are able to draw on their inner experiences, perspectives and feelings. Their creative expression becomes a symbolic representation of who they are in that moment.
Play Therapy, like Music Therapy and Expressive Arts Therapy, is non-directive therapy and encourages 'free play' in order for children to engage with and work through their inner anxieties. Therapists integrate a wide range of play and creative arts techniques, responding to the child's efforts to make sense of their experiences through symbolism, fantasy and make-believe.
The use of play also allows the therapist to enter into the child’s experience and work with the child towards healing that that is consistent with the child’s age and thus developmentally appropriate.
Expressive Arts Therapy developed out of the holistic merging of Art Therapy, Music Therapy, Dance Movement Therapy, Drama Therapy, process work, creative writing and mindfulness training. Creativity and the senses are not separate, and therefore, Expressive Arts Therapy was a natural progression in the development of the individual Arts Therapies.
In the 1970’s Dr Natalie Rogers (daughter of world renowned psychologist Dr Carl Rogers) laid down the foundations for what would become the field now known as Expressive Arts Therapy. She developed a therapeutic process called 'The Creative Connection' - a specific Expressive Arts Therapy tool that integrates two or more forms of art expression.
Mixed expressive art modalities are effective when dealing with trauma in therapy as trauma is largely a non-verbal experience. There are very few instances of trauma that are not experiences as an assault on the senses.
Therefore, since trauma is an implicit experience that is felt throughout the body and often encoded in one or more of the senses (visual, auditory, tactile) most people find it easier to express trauma-related emotions and experiences through sensory-based activities. Interventions using mixed arts therapies capitalise on non-verbal activities and assist those who are unable to process or communicate emotionally powerful events using words.
Moving from one creative art activity to the next creative activity using a different medium, opens up the sensory and emotional ability for clients to experience and process undesirable feelings and/or trauma.
Creating - whether it be painting, clay, making music, writing poetry or acting out a story - is the type of socially acceptable performance which can provide enough satisfaction to channel otherwise destructive and/or anti-social actions into constructive and appropriate forms of behaviour to alleviate emotional distress.
These images are examples of the creative processes from various sessions with many different clients. Each image is a snapshot of a single session - or the outcome of a single session - in a journey that we have travelled together.
Each client was referred for a different reason. Individual aims for each therapeutic process was different, as was the duration of therapy, and the outcome.
- Health Professional Council of South Africa
- South African Music Therapy Association
- South African Network for Arts Therapies Organisation
- International Expressive Arts Therapy Association
- Creative Therapy Online
Mikaela's Publications & Articles
- Journeying with Litha in Taking Music Seriously: Stories from South African Music Therapy
(Music Therapy Community Clinic - 2010)
Mikaela is a regular contributor to Kids Connection magazine!