I have been thinking about my practicum student this evening. I think she’s trying to let me know that she’s nervous about the fact that during this semester she’ll be leading the music therapy group she’s been observing for the past four months. Part of the reason for her concern is that I don’t do activities, and my sessions are largely improvised. As such, there’s no script, no specific tasks I expect people to complete, and there’s the not knowing what’s going on- particularly since my clients can’t say it with words (or even with music a lot of the time).
It’s scary, especially when you’re new to music therapy, to tolerate not knowing the answer. Sometimes I think that the only thing I have that a student doesn’t have is just enough trust in the process to be able to stand it when I have no idea what’s going on in a session. After thirteen years of being reminded by my own clinical supervisor that everything that happens in the session is “grist for the mill” I finally believe her. I’ve made tons of mistakes, I’m sure. For the most part, my clients are still there. We’ve looked at my mistakes, and we’ve looked at theirs, and we all lived, and we still do music therapy together.
I happened to be looking through one of my many notebooks full of notes, and I came across a few wonderful quotes from Wayne Muller (it’s from the beautiful book How Then Shall We Live? Four Simple Questions That Reveal the Beauty and Meaning of Our Lives). I will have to share these with my student:
“The important thing is not our flowery language, but rather that we are fully present and attentive to our companion.” (p. 117)
“...it is not the act but the awareness, the vitality, and the kindness we bring to our work that allows it to become sacred.” (p. 194)
“But what if ‘don’t know’ is not a signal to push and work and struggle, but rather an indication that it is time to be quiet, listen, and wait?” (p. 180)
“I learned to trust the truth that music can tell about things.” (p. 113)
I have every confidence that my student will grow into an excellent music therapist. She is caring, patient, aware of her own internal struggles, and she pays close attention to people. She’s also not afraid to make music. Once she realizes that she has all she needs to do the work of music therapy, I’m sure she’ll feel better.