Tuesday, January 26, 2010

1/26/10 Quote- Developing a relationship through music with someone who doesn't use speech

Close connection - VerbundenheitImage by alles-schlumpf via Flickr
I am slowly reading through a book called, "Music Therapy: Intimate Notes" by Mercedes Pavlicevic (1999, Jessica Kingsley Publishers). It describes, of all things, what it's like to be a music therapist in relationship with one's clients. 

Hmm. Where have I heard that before...

Anyway, I'm not sure why I haven't looked at this book until now. It's been around for ten years. I guess books come in to your life when you're ready for them. 

So I just finished the first chapter. Each chapter seems to be organized around a particular story shared by a music therapist. Mercedes Pavlicevic then adds her comments. 

Which is great, because her comments are beautifully put.

Here, for example, are some excerpts in which she very nicely describes the process of building a music therapy relationship, clarifying for readers (presumably not music therapists) what has just been shared in the story and why it's significant:
How do you respond to a child who does 'nothing'? The void that he presents, and his absence from the music therapy room, challenges a deeply natural aspect of human communication: that for communication to happen between people, we need the responsiveness of another person, we need them to show their responsiveness, whether in speech, movements or facial expressions, and we ourselves need to have a sense of their sensitivity to our influence- to mutual influence. We cannot communicate with someone who does not show any signs of being susceptible to us, influenced by us; who appears vacant.
She goes on to say:
     Communication between Oksana and Daniel is a two way process: Daniel begins to vocalize and at first he makes occasional short sounds. Oksana vocalizes too, but not just in any way: she listens to the quality of his voice, how short the sounds are, how high or low they are, whether she can hear any rhythm, any shape in what he does. And she adapts her own vocalizing in a way that is related to him, to his sounds. This is the beginning of interpersonal influence. She is influenced by what he does and by how he does it- no matter how tiny and apparently haphazard his sounds are at first- and her sensitivity to him sounds in her voice. He hears this, and feels her awareness of him in the song that she is singing, and in session four, this triggers something in him. Suddenly, he begins to vocalize much more intensely: he makes longer sounds, and immediately she responds, matching his longer, more intense sounds. In these moments, Oksana and Daniel connect with one another in a way that they have not been able to until now. What is interesting here, though, is that Oksana does more than just match, or mirror what he does. She begins to extend what he does.
     This is crucial: in order for Daniel to extend himself, to grow, to develop, he needs to be shown where he can go with his voice. Now that he and Oksana have 'met', now that each has a sense of the other, through their vocalizing together, Oksana keeps close to what Daniel is doing: she continues to match his singing closely. In this way, he knows- he has a sense- that her singing is related to his. And when she does a bit more- sings for longer, or louder, or quicker- he then hears where he needs to go in order to remain connected to her. (pp. 20-21)
Is that not gorgeously and articulately said?

She so nicely captures why it's so important to have a relationship with our clients. Without the relationship, there is no investment or interest in, heck, no meaning to what we present in a session. 

The very last sentence says it perfectly: "...he [Daniel, the client] then hears where he needs to go in order to remain connected to her [Oksana, the therapist]." 

In other words, the relationship now matters to Daniel, and he now has a reason to learn new things and a context within which he feels acknowledged and heard so he can feel safe enough to venture outside of himself. 

And, that, my friends, is music therapy. 


Joel K said...

Hello Roia,
I share your admiration for Mercedes' writing. "Intimate Notes" was required reading during my Nordoff-Robbins training in Edinburgh, and we had her in for an afternoon class one day. She has such a good...'way' about her.
Thanks for highlighting her work.

Roia said...

Hey there, Joel. Thanks so much for visiting and for sharing your thoughts. How much nicer to know that a person whose writing I admire is just as pleasant in person! I'm so glad you were able to meet her and that you chose to swing by and say "hello".