I have a client who seems to have a great deal of anger. For months now, he and I have made very small steps toward reaching his goals. I have had trouble engaging him in any of the musical experiences I present, even though he speaks at length about how he wants to be a guitarist.

I feel that I’m failing him, and I don’t have any more ideas. Only one time in months leading up to tonight have I felt that he was interested in anything I provided, and that experience was songwriting. He participated in that for only one session.

Tonight, he seemed particularly angry. He vented for most of the session, which seems absolutely appropriate for some clients to do every so often. However, with this client, I can hardly ever direct him away from this venting on any occasion. Because I sensed he would not even touch his guitar, I decided to match his mood with some recorded music I have on my iPhone. His favorite genre of music is heavy metal. I don’t have any of that genre readily available, so I found “God’s Away On Business,” by Tom Waits, with which he was not familiar. The timbre of Waits’s voice could be somewhat comparable to some of the vocals in some heavy metal bands. But, Waits typically juxtaposes the roughness in his voice with melodic lines, provided by instruments such as the bassoon and marimba. I felt I could intrigue my client with novelty and the quality of Waits’s voice, and hopefully move him away from his anger. I think it worked; he quieted and seemed to listen, even though his comment was, “That sucked.”

We moved on from there, and I did hold his attention for the rest of the session by using Pandora on my phone to play a station of bands he likes.

Sure, we weren’t able to reach any “true” goals tonight, but I was happy with the distance we did travel.

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