Whew! What a fascinating and busy few months it's been!
Aside from my usual and intense immersion in work, there have been some nifty things happening. Here's what's been up:
First, I am extremely honored to be a part of a new book, edited by Sue Hadley, who is one of the people I greatly appreciate and admire, because she's willing to talk about the stuff nobody else talks about. This time she's talking about race and culture in terms of how it's experienced by music therapists. Here's the description of the book from Barcelona Publishers:
Experiencing Race as a Music Therapist: Personal Narratives is a compilation of critically engaging narratives that grew out of conversations with 17 music therapists living in different parts of the world, from various “racial” groups, about their experiences of their racialized identities in the therapy setting. The music therapists describe the raced and cultural contexts in which they were born and describe the racial demographics of the places they have lived at various times in their lives. The countries in which the individual music therapists spent their formative years include Australia, Canada, Iran, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, Puerto Rico, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States, with many of them also having traveled to other countries. The music therapists discussed their specific experiences of their racialized identities when they were studying music therapy and how they experienced their racialized identities in their professional lives. Many of them also described the differences they were aware of in terms of how they experienced themselves as raced or how they experienced the therapeutic relationship when they were working with people of their own “race” compared with working with people who were from a different “race.” From these narratives, we can see that our life experiences shape how we understand ourselves and others, our assumptions and biases, and the effort with which we form relationships with different groups of people. The music therapists in this book have shared their experiences in the hope that we can learn how to sit in our discomfort, without judgment, lowering our defenses, in order to learn more about ourselves and others, so that we can deepen our understandings and our relationships across racialized lines.
I've been slowly reading through the narratives, and they are engaging and thought-provoking. I encourage you to check out this book. It is a wonderful invitation to deeper reflection and conversation about a topic that does not generally come up in our field.
Second, I spent a lot of time trying to organize a presentation I did for the most recent Mid-Atlantic Regional music therapy conference, "Countertransference Songs: Another Way to Listen" (you know- countertransference- one of my favorite topics!). Here is how I described the session:
Far from simply being a means by which to convey skills and the general expression of feelings, music can be used on another level to better understand our clients- especially those who don’t use speech as their main communication modality. Paying attention to the music that emerges in sessions- for example, the sounds we typically use in response to particular clients, or songs that suddenly pop into our minds as we work intensely with someone - can offer us another avenue by which to understand what is going on within the therapy relationship.
Starting from the premise that the therapy relationship is the healing element, the focus and, more significantly, the work of dynamically oriented music therapy is to look at and explore the relationships that develop between the therapist, client and music.
As active participants in the therapeutic relationship, music therapists experience a range of countertransference responses when working with clients, some of which are explored in supervision and some in personal therapy. In this presentation we will start from the assumption that countertransference includes all of the feelings, reactions, fantasies, thoughts and ideas the therapist experiences in relation to clients, either in response to how a client/group is perceiving him/her, or based on the therapist’s own personal history. Of course, one of the ways countertransference may be expressed within a music therapy relationship is through the music.
Two case studies will be presented, the first of which will describe how musical countertransference became apparent within the context of the type of music improvised in a client’s sessions. The second will follow a lengthy series of countertransference-generated songs that emerged as a part of the therapy relationship. In both cases, exploring the therapist’s musical responses moved the therapeutic process toward deeper understanding of the clients’ internal worlds.
I actually only ended up presenting one case study (since it had all the elements I described). The biggest challenge was trying distill many years worth of therapy (and tons and tons of examples) into 90 minutes!
As often happens, in the process of reviewing the (volumes of) notes and the songs and the music that came out of this man's sessions, I gained a lot of insight into some of the ways my countertransference reactions caused me to miss some aspects of what may have been going on with him at various points in the therapy.
Honestly, there was just so much, and it's such a complex topic, I'm wanting to present this material again within a longer context (meaning, maybe a CMTE proposal is in order).
Meanwhile, the third exciting thing was being a guest on the music therapy world's answer to The View- yes, I got to chat with the lovely ladies of The Music Therapy Roundtable! I mean, look! They even have their very own mug (and, see, they sent me one too). How cool! Heck, how organized!
I got to blather on and on with Rachel Rambach (of Listen & Learn Music fame) and Michelle Erfurt (the original Boom Tote designer herself!) - their third partner, Kimberly Sena Moore was in transit so she couldn't join us - about one of my other favorite topics: professional clinical supervision! And you'll be thrilled (I'm sure) to know that I discovered I have a shocking tendency to rely on the word "um" while being interviewed. Oy.
And, if you've taken it to the next level and you're a Music Therapy Pro subscriber, you can listen to yet more of my incessant chatter on their Pro podcast.
So that's what's been happening in my land. I'd love to hear what's going on in yours!