Sunday, January 18, 2009

A lot of ways to say "goodbye" (or-er- not)

I keep meaning to go back to the series on Paying Attention in Music Therapy (and I will), but the thing is, my clients always seem to provide me (and, by extension, you) with a whole host of examples of how to pay attention and why it's so important and helpful.

Before I even begin, I want to add a disclaimer and say that I realize I could be absolutely off the mark in any and or all of my interpretations with regard to my clients' actions and interactions. The reason I give so many details is that it's helpful to note that, when they're ready (and when I start to make sense to them), my clients (many of whom have autism) really do make a major effort to let me know, through all my insistence on paying attention, that I sometimes seem to get it right. 

Now, on with the latest...

Yesterday was a pretty intense day with B.  He took a lot of risks this past week, and he allowed himself to show me how strongly he feels about his time in music therapy with me (it's not as if I didn't know it, but I think he was feeling it more acutely this past week). 

If you've ever read this blog, then you can't possibly have missed the fact that goodbyes (and endings) are not my clients' favorite time of the session. 

Well, having taken all kinds of risk (and having felt all kinds of rejected), B was quite clear in letting me know he was not pleased with our having to stop for the day. On Wednesday he kept putting his coat on halfway and then taking it off and handing it back to me (along with the mittens I so painstakingly attempted to get over his rather uncooperative thumbs- argh!).  Then he kept indicating a need to use the bathroom (um, he didn't need to use the bathroom).  

Yesterday he got his coat on and such, but when we got back to the cottage he looked like he wasn't quite finished with me.  He actually followed me right through the day area to the hallway where we hung up his coat (well, where he held on to his coat and then handed it to me to hang up).  Then he rushed over after I signed him in and was set to follow me right back out the door.

His staff person offered him a snack, and, after a pause, the crackers won, and he decided he needed sustenance (I'm totally down with that- I am, after all, a great big fan of food). I reminded him I planned to see him on Wednesday, and, had he had the dexterity, he might have given me the "yeah, yeah, you do that" wave while he indulged. 

As I was walking out the door, not one but two separate countertransference songs swirled through my head.  Countertransference songs are those that start playing in my head when I'm doing music therapy with an individual or a group. 

The first was "Don't Leave Me This Way" . I know other people sang it, but I remember the Thelma Houston version from back in the mid 70's- which wouldn't be an issue, except that, in this case, it's of interest- to me anyway- that the version I know is sung by a woman.  More on that in a moment. 

The second (and almost simultaneously occurring) song that my mind started singing was "Please Don't Go" (which KC-of the Sunshine Band- wrote and sang in a sweaty state in the YouTube video to which I've added a link). 

Both songs are pretty impassioned, and the feelings expressed within them are rather intimate (which, I believe, were the feelings B was trying to express in his session).

Now to the fact that one of the songs was (in my memory anyway) sung by a woman.  Bear with me, this may get a bit confusing:

A number of times in my work with B I've come up with countertransference songs which were sung by young girls or young women.  It struck me as something I ought to take note of, and I did give it some thought at the time, but it's mostly been lying quietly in the back of my mind for a while, waiting perhaps for just this moment.  

Last Saturday (not yesterday), after a very difficult and puzzling session with B, I left, and (as I expressed to my clinical supervisor) I found myself feeling emasculated.  Which was a very odd feeling for me to be having since-er- I'm not a guy.

I realize there could be a lot of reasons why B seems to somehow summon up so many songs in the feminine voice, but in this particular case (back to yesterday's session and the two "don't leave me" songs I heard in my thoughts), I wondered if my having set a limit ("B, we don't have that kind of relationship.") made him feel rather emasculated.

I extended the thought further in my mind, and I wondered if he struggles, in general, with his identity as a man (i.e., What does it mean for him to be a man?  What does it take for him to feel like a man? Does he feel like a man? and so forth). 

This isn't easy work, but how can you deny that it is so fascinating?  

1 comment:

Ryan said...

I love your idea of countertransference songs, Roia. There can be so much meaning in the thoughts that arise when we work with someone - it's amazing that for a music therapist, the thoughts are songs! Thanks for this.