Writing prompt: Consider your theoretical orientation

This past Saturday, I attended a fantastic presentation called “An Overview of the Theories that Inform Music Therapy Practice,” given by Kathleen Murphy, PhD, MT-BC and James Hiller, PhD, MT-BC. Many students and interns were in attendance, but many professionals were there, too. Drs. Murphy and Hiller touched on five theoretical orientations in only an hour and a half, really delving into only two of the five. They discussed the role of the client, the role of the therapist, and the role of the music within the theories. The approaches that were considered at length were the behaviorist approach and the psychodynamic approach, because these two theories are quite different. Other theories were humanist/client-centered, music-centered, and cognitive-behavioral theory. As much as I am enthralled with the psychodynamic approach, I think I actually work inside the humanist orientation given my clientele. I found the whole presentation and break-down of roles within each theory to be clarifying.

My writing prompt for April is to consider your theoretical orientation, or combination thereof. One point the presenters made was that a therapist cannot consider himself “eclectic” without a foundation in one orientation.

Feel free to send me your words. I’ll look them over and have them up by the end of the month. Write on.

Monday matters: Own the music

I’ve just returned from my regional music therapy conference, held in Rosemont, Illinois. We got home earlier today, and I went to see clients this afternoon. Surprisingly, I’m tired.

I attended a number of fascinating presentations, but the most immediately applicable in terms of functional knowledge that I employed even today was the CMTE (continuing education) course on clinical improvisation. Of course we spent time developing our technical knowledge of modes and how to easily access them on piano (among myriad other techniques), but what I found the most useful, confusing, and encouraging was the time we spent translating our goals into music-centered goals. In other words, how, in the music, would we clinicians know a goal has been met? How would the music achieve the goal? How would the accomplishment sound? Music therapy cannot be compared to any other therapy, because the music in music therapy is an entity and a language all in itself.

One of the conversations had in this course was surrounding music therapists’ definitions of our work, especially when we’re describing our work to someone who assumes we are music teachers. “Music therapy uses music to achieve non-musical goals” is a succinct and often-used way to speak about our therapy, but is it really accurate? Why do the goals we address have to be “non-musical?” How can we own the music in music therapy?

What are your thoughts? I would love to continue this conversation.

Missing voice

I have entirely lost my voice. I woke up this morning with nothing. I tried to make a phone call to cancel one of my sessions, and was embarrassed that it sounded like a prank call; I’m sure the person on the other end was confused by the silence.

I spent the day working on e-mails and organizing my Dropbox folders. I follow Michelle Erfurt‘s Project Professional Update, and had hopes of tackling her newest e-mail inbox challenge, but did not. Alas, I did get a few hours’ worth of administrative tasks accomplished.

I hope I find my voice tomorrow.

Back to coursework: Wigram’s IMPROVISATION

I have written before that I am in transition between working in two different music therapy approaches. I’m trying to become more and more comfortable with the process-oriented approach (which, in turn, leads me to feeling a lot of discomfort within sessions, but this could be a topic for another day). When I’m working with my clients now, I use a lot of improvisation. My principal instrument is voice, but I tend to use a variety of rhythm instruments with many of my clients.

I have some small groups of adults, with whom I am working on group improvisation. Today, I look back at Tony Wigram’s Improvisation, published in 2004. One goal I have in working with one group is to develop a stronger sense of cohesion in order to improve some social skills. Wigram writes about “rhythmic dialogues” on page 167. This kind of dialogue is something I’m hoping to facilitate.

He writes:

Important potentials when trying to develop rhythmic improvisation are:

  • improvising using a rhythmic figure, but without pulse;
  • improvising with the same rhythmic figure using a pulse;
  • rhythmic dialogues — where a rhythmic theme is used to build dialogue between two players
  • establishing a pulse but without imposing a meter on it where random accents can disrupt any sense of meter;
  • establishing a steady pulse with a meter where the accents can accentuate the meter…

I use the dialogues, as I mentioned, the most, and then maybe the first two bullet points as well. Sometimes I’m able to experience a nice back-and-forth with this group, which is encouraging.

How do you feel about this book? Do you use rhythmic thematic improvisation or melodic thematic improvisation most often?

This work I get to do

I love this work I get to do.

I love that one of my clients came up and hugged me today, when he’s never done that before.

I love that I always feel full of life when I go to a particular day center.

I love that sometimes my face hurts at the end of the day from smiling so much, sometimes out of joy or happiness, but mostly out of fulfillment.

I love this work I get to do.

What about you?