An Interview with Graham Music

Ahead of Wimbledon Guild Counselling Training’s annual conference Adoption & Attachment on Feb 3rd 2018 we caught up with Graham Music who will be a keynote speaker on the day.

graham musicGraham Music is Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist at the Tavistock and Portman Clinics and an adult psychotherapist in private practice. His publications include Nurturing Natures 2017, Attachment and Children's Emotional, Sociocultural and Brain Development (2011), Affect and Emotion (2001), and The Good Life: Wellbeing and the new science of altruism, selfishness and Immorality (2014). He has a particular interest in exploring the interface between developmental findings, clinical work and their social implications.


What lead to you starting out as a psychotherapist?

Always a complex question

For the wrong reasons, I developed rather too good a set of skills for understanding other's feelings and predicting their states of mind in my early family life, sadly probably not uncommon in psychotherapists and counsellors. 

But it was the experience of being helped when i was in crisis that led me to become passionate about this kind of work, and built on a longstanding interest in psychoanalysis as well as linked areas such as meditation. Then I found I loved working with children and families as well as adults, and once I started I was hooked, as there is so much to endlessly learn, question and be fascinated and challenged by. Never a dull moment, it feels a privilege to do this work.


In your article Trauma, helpfulness and selfishness: the effect of abuse and neglect on altruistic, moral and pro-social capacities, you discuss how early trauma can cause children to become less altruistic. You illustrate your research using neuro scientific examples, how did you become interested in the field of neuroscience? And how does this inform your work with children and their parents?

I was fascinated with neuroscience from the first moments I heard about it.

Much that blew my mind initially, that I used to teach about is now almost old hat, such as neuroplasticity. However the field remains in its infancy and is changing by the month.

In the last year or two I have become particularly taken by the understandings about the autonomic nervous system and how this trauma affects the body, so I have such ideas always in the back of my mind in clinical work. 

With parents, such as those who adopt children, I find these ideas are hugely helpful in allowing them to make sense of the children in their care.


You recently tweeted @grahammusic1 a really interesting video explaining the ACES scale (Adverse Childhood Experiences) how important do you feel that therapists understand their clients level of ACES in the room? How can this be relevant to work with the parents of adopted children?

I am not sure we need to give clients ACE's questionnaires, but rather like with the neuroscience, what the research does is show conclusively what we used to argue was the case many years ago. 

We can now see how behaviours and symptoms, which could be seen as a 'problem', make complete sense when seen as the effects of terrible experiences. People need to know about this very compelling evidence of the powerful long term effects of adverse early experiences, if nothing else, because it takes the stigma and blame out of the symptoms that so many present with.

To hear more from Graham Music go to:

Twitter @grahammusic1