Transformation in Improvisation




Research in the field of Music Therapy and Borderline Personality Disorder is very limited. Currently there are two doctoral studies on the subject of music therapy and borderline personality disorder. One study (Odell-Miller, 2007) describes the various methods that exist in Europe for the music therapeutic treatment of people with personality disorders.
Another study is the naturalistic phenomenological investigation of Strehlow (2010), in which different interpersonal musical and affective dimensions in a music therapeutic process with people with a borderline personality disorder are described and categorized on the basis of an extensive case study (n=80).
Music Therapy in the ‘Leuvense School’ is internationally known by the expertise in the musical improvisation. With the present research we want to establish this music-specific expertise and develop it for the music therapeutic practice for patients with a borderline personality disorder. Internationally, this music-specific focus in relation to BPD is a lacuna in the research field of music therapy. With this study we want to offer a complementary value in the current research field of music therapy.
From research (De Backer, 2008; Odell-Miller, 2007; Schumacher et al., 2011; Strehlow, 2010), literature (Smeijsters, 2005; Streeter, 1999) and clinical experience we know that the musical interplay between patients and therapist is influenced by the psychological problems of patients.
This research will investigate the manner of playing in a musical improvisational interplay, by analogy with the musical improvisation in music therapy, with people with a borderline personality disorder. Associations between the musical object itself, the way participants are affected during the interplay and the pathology of borderline personality disorder are examined.
Musical features will be differentiated and categorized on the basis of observations (video analysis by a research intervison group), computational musical analyses and structural musical analysis (transcriptions of the improvisations).
This study can be framed within the method of mixed design. The collected data is analysed and processed from two different approaches, on the one hand by a scientific statistical approach and on the other hand by an artistic qualitative case study.
This study is an observational case-matched control study (n=150) within a cross-sectional time frame. The research will use a controlled blinded observational setup.


Katrien Foubert

Katrien Foubert


Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Rudi Vermote (KU Leuven)
Co-supervisor: Prof. Dr. Jos De Backer (LUCA)

Collaborating with
University of Jyvaskyllä: Prof. Dr. Jaakko Erkillä, Dr. Marc Thompson
KULeuven: Prof. Dr. Benedicte Lowyck
UPC KULeuven, Campus Kortenberg: Yannic Verhaest
Universiteit Antwerpen: Dr. Dorien Herremans
University of Aalborg: Dr. Olivier Lartillot
University of Leicester: Dr. Tom Collins
LUCA: Martin Valcke, Jan Van Camp


Laureate of Vocatio (2013, June). Nominated and Laureate for the research project “Transformation in Improvisation”, Brussels, Belgium.



Foubert, K. (2014). Woord in muziek. Paper presented at the conference ‘Tussen herhaling en herinnering – psychose’. Kortenberg, België.

De Backer, J., Foubert, K. (2014). Improvisation in Education. From Madness to Art!. World Congress of Music Therapy 2014. Krems an der Donau, Austria, 8-12 July 2014.

Foubert, K. (2014). De muzische mens – De mogelijkheden van ambulante groepsmuziektherapie binnen een CGG: reflectie van een pilootproject. Vlaams Geestelijk Gezondheidscongres. UA Antwerpen, Wilrijk, 16-17 September 2014.

De Backer, J., & Foubert K. (2014). Improvisation in Music Therapy. Paper presented at the Conference of the Deutsche Musiktherapeutische Gesellschaft, Universität der Künste. Berlin, Deutschland.

Foubert, K. (2014). Muziektherapie: mogelijkheden en grenzen. ,Presentation at the congress of Deeltijds Kunstonderwijs, Oostende, Belgium.

Foubert, K. (2015). Music and Borderline. Presentation at the onderzoeksseminarie ‘Trust the process?!’. Onderzoeksgroep Faculty of Arts, LUCA, Campus Lemmens, Leuven, België.


Foubert, K., Coomans, A. (2014, March). Musical Improvisation and Psychopathology. Poster presented at the Conference of the Human Sciences, Leuven, Belgium.

De Backer, J., Foubert, K., Van Camp, J. (2014). Lauschendes Spiel. Musiktherapeutische Interventionen in der Psychosenbehandlung. PDP Psychodynamische Psychotherapie: Forum der Tiefenpsychologisch Fundierten Psychotherapie, 4, 256-263.

Foubert, K. (2013). Waar woorden ontbreken, begint de muziek: de kracht van muziek in een therapeutische context. Similes, 35, 24-27.

De Backer, J., Foubert, K. (2011). Psychose und die innere Pulsierung. In: Illner J., Smetana M. (Eds.), bookseries: Wiener Beiträge zur Musiktherapie, vol: 9, Wiener Schule der Differenziellen klinischen Musiktherapie: Ein Update. Vienna: Praesens, 13-30.

poster Dementia 02-14 LR


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