I have always wanted to be an avid reader. I introduced An Article Monthly Project months ago, and I did find that making the time to read the articles was satisfying. But, it did not last.
One good book I am reading (in pieces) is The Dynamics of Music Psychotherapy, edited by Kenneth Bruscia. I’m quite sure many music therapists either own it or have heard of it, but it seems to be a good one to go back to whenever I so need.
If there so happens to be someone out there who wants to discuss any of the chapters, I’m all for it.
Over the past few months I have been shifting the way I think of music therapy and my philosophy of my practice from outcome-oriented to process-oriented. These months have brought such an interesting struggle. I am really fortunate to have found a clinical supervisor who is supporting me in this transition. This change has introduced a number of obstacles, none of which I would be able to navigate successfully without support. All sorts of questions have arisen for me as I’m working through the change, and I am led to believe that the questions aren’t ever going to come to an end. They just may be of a different nature. I think the questions are what is so appealing as well as what is so scary about process-oriented therapy.
This week I’ve come to decide that I need to find my connection in regard to the way I’m practicing, and to recognize that it is itself a process. I have experienced a share of challenges to this orientation, and though I believe in the validity of music therapy as a whole, I cannot switch off the way I provide the best care so that I may sidestep an obstacle. Sometimes connecting to a philosophy such as I am doing now is difficult. But, I already feel more genuine as a therapist, which will in turn benefit my clients.
Here’s hoping that the path keeps winding, but at least smoothes out a little!
I wonder if anyone else has ever had a transition like this.
Yes, the musicality of this song is strange. The singer’s voice doesn’t sound like it should be singing these lyrics. But, I appreciate these lyrics as a music therapist. I was listening to The Current this morning and thought the song, or at least the lyrics, could lend themselves well to a group discussion with high schoolers or middle schoolers.
I had one client today with whom I had a lot of trouble connecting. I brought her favorite instruments. Though she is non-verbal, she is often quite vocal, and she seemed to be engaged vocally at the beginning of the session. Then, she turned away. She didn’t take any instrument to play, nor did she use a certain iPad app that she’s historically seemed to love. I asked her to sign “all done,” or to tell me she was through with certain experiences in another specific way. She did neither. Most of the session, she kept her body turned away from me.
Writing about it and reviewing it now, I think I would’ve best served her by listening to her more actively. Like I said, she was vocalizing at the opening of the session. Not until we had only 15 or so minutes in our session did I truly engage with her vocally. Then, she turned back toward me. Then, she made some eye contact. Only then did I feel we had connected. I believe she felt more heard at that point.
Those first minutes were difficult. I attempted to be silent in order to see if she would choose an instrument without any kind of perceived pressure from me. I attempted asking her questions and giving her two ways to answer. But, in the end, our connection was fused when we sang together.
Finding connection professionally
I have hopes for the peer supervision group we have here in the Twin Cities. Those hopes include having a stable space where we can come together as professionals and ask our questions and receive honest advice or validation. I also hope that we use music to improvise together, to share songs, and also to address specific needs that are happening in our clinical lives. Perhaps at some point we can host speakers. Finding this type of professional connection would be so very beneficial, at least for me, being in private practice.
I wonder if anyone out there has anything to say about finding connection.
I’m writing in terms of clinical and professional connection, but I’d love to hear input on other kinds of music therapy-related connection.
We had a great group for our somewhat-monthly peer supervision meeting last night. I was fortunate to meet for the first time three new music therapists who are practicing in the Minneapolis and St. Paul area, and together all seven of us improvised and shared some songs we’d been using in our clinical work. Coming up on Saturday is the Music Therapy Association of Minnesota conference, entitled “Brain Tuning: Teaching Others to Improve Attention, Memory, and Problem Solving Skills.”
Thanks to those music therapists who came out last night. I will be posting about the next peer supervision group meeting once it’s decided.
I have had to change the way I interact with some of my clients, mostly because I am not as able to be up and down off the floor anymore. To accommodate this, I used a table and chairs in one of my sessions yesterday where normally there is a pretty bare space for therapy to take place. Once my client saw these new things in the therapy space, he simply picked up one of the chairs and walked it down a hall and into another room. I followed him, of course, and asked that he take the chair back. We got ourselves back into the space, but my client really disliked the presence of the table. I moved it to the side of the room where it was still functional but not as much a focal point, but my client was very unhappy regardless. I provided him space and silence before creating a song about the difficulties and discomfort that lie within change and newness. He seemed to listen to the words; he was still and his gaze was focused, and after I sang it through two times, he said, “Ready,” and we moved into our greeting song.
No two sessions are ever the same, nor do I expect them to be. I attempt to provide a consistent physical environment for my clients who are most sensitive of change, but I simply did not give the amount of consideration to the additions that I should have given. I am hoping that the change in my own physicality will be gradual enough that there won’t be any resistance from my clients. I have a few months to see about that.
I had the privilege to meet with one of my internship supervisors for a few minutes a couple of weeks ago. I wish I stayed in better touch with her, but I was happy to get to see her for just that short amount of time. Inevitably, we spoke about the fact that I am expecting, and I asked her if she knew any music therapists in the Twin Cities who work in sound birthing. I recognize that I am a music therapist, but those therapists who work in childbirth are not known to me; I have heard there are a few who work at or through a hospital in one of the suburbs. My former supervisor said she knew of a few therapists to contact, but that I should really be thinking of my own playlists in case I can’t have a therapist with me.
Hm. My own playlists? I am pretty accustomed to thinking of my clients’ music, but my own is sort of another story. I’ve been feeling tired of my music, but I have found one blogger whose “new tunes” posts reliably inspire me. I guess it’s time to start putting together a few different lists– stimulative, sedative, active, etc.
Do any of you work in sound birthing? Did you have a music therapist at your birth? Tell me stories.
Several of the clients I see have autism. Some use speech to communicate, others do not. Some find the ability to express their needs through various gestures, some sign language, and other physical indications; others do not. Some of them have a combination of verbal and physical communication. Most of my clients with autism, however, find ways to express themselves within and through a musical medium.
By providing a client with a variety of instruments, both melodic and rhythmic, I find that I can notice a trend in the way he or she plays an instrument. Choosing melodic over rhythmic might give me some insight into a client’s emotional state; perhaps this client is feeling a need to explore different sounds within this timbre. Maybe he has more expressive tendencies at this time that only a melodic instrument can allow. If the client is playing in a very high register, I might believe that he is expressing happiness; in a low register, maybe the client feels sluggish or down. I may interpret the choice of a rhythmic instrument in a variety of other ways. When the client plays with staccato strikes, I might believe he is angry or frustrated. If the client’s tempo is quick, with light strikes, I may think he is feeling anxious or scared.
The information that is relayed through music will usually facilitate a better understanding on my part of a client’s emotional state. Musical conversations can at times ensue, but other times a client might need to simply vent to me. My job is to absorb all of this information and find the best way to validate and support this musical expression, and continue to do so throughout all of the transitions and various challenges my clients might face.
There is a small group of music therapists in the Minneapolis and St. Paul areas that meets on a (relatively) regular basis. If you happen to be a board-certified music therapist in our area and are interested in a peer supervision group, please feel free to contact me directly about joining us.
Our next meeting is Wednesday, April 24, at 7:00 PM. Our agenda is still yet to be entirely determined, but we each will provide five or more songs of one genre that we happen to use often; we will more than likely play whatever instruments we all decide to bring; and we will spend time catching up with what’s new in the last few weeks.