Tuesday, January 12, 2010

1/12/10 Quote(s)- Music therapy and power

Neon music signImage via Wikipedia
I think a lot about power in the music therapy relationship, to the point where I've even presented on the topic

So I was thrilled to find an article in the British Journal of Music Therapy by Randi Rolvsjord called "Whose Power of Music? A Discussion on Music and Power-Relations in Music Therapy" . 

She offers a thought-provoking perspective I hadn't even thought to consider. 

Well, I've probably considered it, but right now I can't recall when.

I've quoted her article rather liberally below, but the basic question I think she intended for me to ask myself when I finished reading the article was this: 

Are we taking away our clients' power when we attribute their progress to the "power of the music" or to the "power of our interventions"?

Just in case I'm not getting it right, I'll let Randi Rolvsjord say it in her own words:
In a contextual approach, the therapeutic outcome is primarily related to the client's ability to use the therapeutic context to make important changes in his or her life. With the therapist's help, the client uses the space provided in therapy to activate or mobilize resources for change (Bohart 2000: 130). In a contextual model, the specific "ingredients" (techniques and procedures) are not seen as the main source of change in the therapeutic process.  
She goes on to address music therapy more specifically:
A contextual approach impels us to shift our attention away from the therapist and the perceived inherent capacities of music, focusing instead on how clients make use  of music and music therapy in their efforts towards health and quality of life - and perhaps even towards music and musical experiences and activities. This does not require us to stop considering music as a powerful resource that can be used therapeutically: rather, it requires us to acknowledge the need for a client to make use of it, or relate to it. It also suggests that the client's own use of music is probably more important than the therapist's use of music, impelling us to consider how we can better nurture the client's own resources for health-related musicking
She notes:
When music therapy "works", it is primarily because clients are able to access music as a health resource. To support this process, it is necessary to hand back the "power of music" to our clients and enable them to use their musicality and musical competence, their musics, and their musicking to promote health and quality of life. 
And she repeats:
With a contextual approach to therapy, the focus of therapeutic effectiveness is shifted away from the expert-therapist implementation of effective interventions, and instead toward the client-therapist collaboration concerned with access to music, with enablement and empowerment. I have argued elsewhere (Rolvsjord 2004) that such a process of empowerment implies focus upon the nurturing and development of strengths in a mutual and collaborative relationship. 

I have to admit I don't know a blessed thing about the "contextual approach to therapy", but it sounds interesting, and I believe I'll have to go do some searching to find out more.

Anyone else out there have any opinions to register about this form of power within the music therapy relationship?


Erin said...

How interesting! I'll come back to comment further when I have more time, but wow. I think you've sparked a post idea for my blog. Do you mind if I link back to your post?

Roia said...

Hi, Erin. No, I don't mind you linking back to the blog. I'm curious to hear your thoughts. Thanks for reading!

Laura Cousins said...

Fascinating! I am feeling a tiny eensy weensy little bit smug now because - and this is significant for me and how I perceive the work that I do - I now see that there are considerable benefits to NOT having 'desired outcomes' or 'therapeutic benefits' to the work I do.

Perhaps it is merely enough for my clients to enjoy the process of musicking. It doesn't have to empower them, improve them in a therapeutic way, or change their lives particularly.

And so, if it DOES do either of those things, that is just as a side-effect of their enjoyment of their engagement in a creative activity, with a person from outside their usual circle of friends, family and support workers. Moi.

PamelaDraper said...

Wow! Roia! I JUST finished reading "Therapy as Empowerment" by Rolvsjord (NJMT, 13(2), 2004, p. 99-111). What a remarkable coincidence!

The question of power and the process of empowerment through MT interventions really is compelling. It seems to me as though it is discovered as the therapist is able to naturally let go of control in sessions - not in a negligent, loose sort of way, but in an intentional way that gives the client more and more freedom to access music exactly as it will assist them in their treatment. This is quite a scary idea for me, someone who hasn't yet experienced having the control in the first place!

Another angle on the "power" discussion is the recognition of each individual client as being within a political context which may include varying levels of discrimination/oppression. Even the pathology assigned to a client may point to power dynamics within the client's culture. The therapist's job is to design and implement musically empowering experiences for the client which emphasize her resources and acknowledge her specific socio-political context. As a matter of fact, I think that might be what contextual music therapy is...? :)

p.s. I am totally going to be at the MAR-AMTA conference in March and I will TOTALLY be at your seminar - looking forward to it!

Roia said...

Lozzie, I imagine it is empowering to simply be in the experience of creating music (musicking, as you say), either alone or with someone else (vous). And it is, I would think, a worthy outcome (if I may say that word publicly without too much twitching) to find pleasure in one's life.

I expect that this is why we have both music experience makers and music therapists in the world. Because both have something of great value to offer.

Roia said...

Hey there, Pamela. Welcome back. Yes, I agree. At first it is scary to let go of control. On the plus side, at least you're aware that it's an issue for you. I think you're ahead of the game, because there are an awful lot of therapists who aren't even conscious of how much power they have in a session.

I'm glad you brought up the element of political power as well. I'm not sure whether or not it's a part of the discussion in contextual therapy, but I believe it's definitely a part of feminist theory. In case you have any interest in the subject, Sue Hadley edited a book on Feminist Perspectives in Music Therapy: http://www.barcelonapublishers.com/fem_perspective.htm

It's also a part of disability studies. I'm often very aware of the socially and politically devalued role my clients experience on a daily basis. It can be difficult to bear witness to that.

Thanks for your thoughts, and it will be lovely to meet you live and in person at the conference!