Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Thinking about acceptance

I was just reading Asperger Square 8's blog where she posted a video made by the mom of a child who is autistic (you should go watch it- it's thoughtful and has a message worth hearing). The mom referred to herself as a former "warrior mom"- in other words, a mother who did everything she could to "cure" her child's autism.  Her child is now ten, and she has changed her focus from trying to "fix" her kid to loving and accepting him as he is (and inviting the rest of the world to do the same).

I commented that I have stopped trying to fix my clients and decided it would be more helpful to get to know them and to enjoy making music together.  Then I re-read my last blog post.  It wasn't a shining example of me being particularly accepting.  Well, I guess if it was a shining example of anything it was my difficulty knowing when to say "enough is enough."  (I did finally have to discontinue music therapy with that particular client, by the way.  It was, in large part, because I was getting kicked and pinched way too regularly, and it really needed to stop.  But it was also because he really doesn't seem able to make use of music therapy right now.  Maybe someday.)

I did, at any rate, want to give some thought (well, more blah-blah) to whether the folks I work with need "fixing" or acceptance. When I stopped doing music-making "activities" (back in 1994 or so) and started using the music to build relationships with my clients, there was a huge sense of relief. My clients were relieved, because I was finally paying attention to them (and not to my concerns as to which activity we'd be doing next and how on earth I was going to get them to do what I wanted them to do).  I was relieved, because I felt as if I'd finally learned how to be a music therapist (versus doing music therapy to my clients).   I also didn't have to come up with bigger and better activities any more (which was especially nice, since I never could get my clients to do any of them anyway).

More importantly, I got to enjoy the work for the first time (hence, my undying gratitude to my clinical supervisor, Janice Dvorkin), and I got to know my clients and to like them in an entirely different way- as people who were worth knowing and not as blobs to be molded through planning and organizing specific interventions to- okay, I admit it- "fix" them.   

If I'm going to be truthful (and I may as well be), it's only been in the past year or so that I have had the conscious thought:  "My clients don't need me to fix them, and they don't need me to fix their lives for them.  What they "need" is for me to be here, and be an ally, and like them for who they are, and help them like themselves for who they are.  Period."   Recognizing this has provided me with even more relief.

It still bothers me when I can't fix life for the guys (it's an institution, and, I'm sorry, but institutions are inherently the pits), and it's hard when it seems as if some of the people I work with can't seem to move beyond a very difficult way of being.  But, if I'm going to be accepting, then it goes beyond not seeing my clients as needing to be fixed in some way.  It also seems to mean that I have to get to a point of being okay with the fact that people are who and where they are, and if they don't choose to make use of the therapy I offer, then part of that acceptance is moving on and supporting someone who is ready to receive my services.