Sunday, July 27, 2008

A thought-provoking film

I am visiting with my aunt, uncle and cousin in Massachusetts, and last night, after much deliberation, we decided to watch the film "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly". It is a beautiful and moving film, based on a true story (more about that later) about a well-known French journalist who, at 42 years of age, has a massive stroke and is left completely paralyzed, experiencing a rare condition called Locked-In Syndrome. The only part of his body over which he has any control is his left eye, and in the film we see the world as he must see it, through a very small frame.

Eventually, a speech therapist helps him to learn to communicate through eye blinks, and he writes about his experiences. Sadly, shortly after his
book is published, he dies of an infection.

The reason I'm blogging about this is that I think it's an excellent teaching tool for those of us who support individuals who are unable to speak and/or who require physical assistance in all aspects of their lives. First, it reminds us that we are all one moment away from severe disability. Second, it invites us to be mindful of our interactions with people who we presume to be lacking in intellect because of their inability to communicate in conventional ways. Third, we are reminded of the power of the human mind.

The film
does not present an entirely accurate portrayal of the relational facts- as in, some of the people who are shown as being part of his life in the film were not involved in the way they were depicted. However, for the purposes I'm suggesting- paying attention to his experiences and how people interact with him once he is disabled- I don't think the factual inaccuracies interfere.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

On temporarily not being a music therapist

Somewhere around about June I realized it was time.  I needed to take a leave from work.  

The thing is this:  I've been at the same job for twenty years.  Yeah. Twenty years.  I don't regret it.  And, frankly, after this many years, I finally have the job I wanted when I first started working there.  Obviously then, for a long time now, I've been immersed in being a music therapist.  I've gone back to school and gotten a master's degree in music therapy, I've had supervision for years and years, I've written (and co-written) two book chapters and an article, and I've truly loved the work.  I still do.  And now I get to work with music therapy students and carry on and on about this work to them as well.  This is cool to me.

As I've thought about it though, I've come to the conclusion that now, after all these many years, what I need to do is begin to dis-identify myself for a period of time from my role as a music therapist.  I have been so connected to my clients for such a long time (I work in an institution with people who have severe labels- all under the giant heading of developmental and intellectual disabilities- and I've been with some of the same folks for almost 20 years) that it's gotten to be difficult for me to perceive of myself as being anything but their music therapist.  

So, now I'm on this leave of absence and trying to experience what it's like to not be a music therapist for a while.  I am so identified with this role that it's still practically the first thing that pops out of my mouth when people meet me.  But now that I've been away from the center for a solid month I feel as if I'm finally ready to do the heavy emotional work of this leave.  I've been doing a lot of journaling, and I'm spending a lot of time playing music.  I'm looking forward to a couple of gigs next week up in New England, and I'll be taking a class on Mindful Therapy at the Cape Cod Institute.  I have another month and a half to go.  We'll see what it brings... 

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

A beautiful article

I just read a beautiful article in the online music therapy journal, Voices.  Since I haven’t been doing music therapy this summer, I shall have to temporarily refer you somewhere else for stories of music therapy.  Here is one that is truly worth a read.  And, if you’re like me, you’ll probably need a box of tissues beside you.