Paying Attention in Music Therapy Series- Part 1: How to Process a Music Therapy Session
I've written before about paying attention in music therapy. It's such an important aspect of our work (made even more so by the fact that many of us work with people who don't use speech), I decided to do a series on the subject.
The first thing I learned in clinical supervision was how to write a process paper. Appropriately enough, it helps you process (in other words, think about and examine) the session by looking at what you were hoping to do, what actually happened, and how your client(s) reacted and how you reacted. It's an intensive exercise, but it's worth it, because many music therapists are used to doing activities and focusing on the product of therapy (the goals and getting to the goals by using specific activities). As such, it's a very new experience to pay attention to the process (looking at relationship and the development of the relationship and how it's manifested in the music). Furthermore, when you aren't sure what's going on- maybe therapy isn't progressing, or maybe you feel uncertain as to how to proceed, or you find yourself having strong reactions to a particular client- it's a way to dissect the session into its smallest parts, thus (hopefully) slowing the whole experience down enough to be able to see where, why, and how the therapy is getting stuck.
Create two columns next to each other on a piece of paper. Listen to and/or watch an audio or videotape of a session (if you have neither audio nor video, you'll have to do this from memory). In the first column right down exactly, in the order that it happened, what you did and what happened (what music you played, what you said, how your client(s) responded, etcetera). In the second column write down (opposite of what you did or what your client did) what you were hoping to do, why you chose to make a particular intervention, and how you felt about your client’s response(s). For example:
(Column 1) I went in to the building to pick up my client, Joan, for music therapy. She was waiting for me at the door, because she can see through the door when I come in. We walked to the Music Room. She waited for me to help take of her coat. I sat at the piano, and I invited her to join me in the chair I had set up next to me. She walked around the room, touching different instruments. I sang the greeting song I usually sing to her (and so on). (This is your objective experience. Just the facts)
(Column 2) I was excited about going to get Joan. I really like her, and I was looking forward to doing our session. I was surprised but pleased that she seemed so eager to come with me today. When I helped her take off her coat, I wondered whether she really needed my help, or if she's just used to other people helping her with it. I found myself feeling somewhat frustrated that she continues to walk around the room and ignore me when I sing a greeting to her. I wondered if other people feel frustrated with her as well (and so on). (This is your subjective experience.)