Friday, February 12, 2010

Are we willing to make our clients the "star ingredients" in a session?

Cooks at work.Image via Wikipedia
I knew someday I'd find a way to link cooking and music therapy! (Can I get a "huzzah!"? Anyone? Anyone?)

Well, actually, Joanne Loewy, a fellow music therapist- who was one of my grad school teachers at  Hahnemann- always used food as a metaphor when she talked about music therapy. 

And this is sort of like that. But different. Follow me here. This gets a bit twisty. 


There I was dozing off on the couch with the television tuned to a PBS station, and I somehow woke up just in time to see the last ten minutes of Avec Eric, which is a foodie cooking show (we love food!). 

Eric, for those of you who are wondering, is a chef in New York, and he has a show on TV where he travels around and talks to other chefs and then shares his own recipes. 

Okay, are you with me so far? Good.

Well. I was half listening to the conversation between Eric and the chef he was interviewing for this particular show, David Kinch. David had made some fabulous food thing for Eric, and they were eating it (with great appreciation, I might add) and discussing what made it wonderful.

Here's where my ears perked up, and I thought, "Hunh!"

Eric had complimented David because he said he could really taste the vegetables he'd used in the dish. And (here's the really neat part) David responded by saying how, when he was a young chef, he was always looking to add one more  ingredient to the dish. As he's matured, he noted, he tries to keep the dishes as simple and basic as possible, always wondering what he can take away so that he can retain the essence of the main ingredients he has chosen. Eric agreed, saying it was indeed important to have "star ingredients".

"YES!!" (I thought loudly). That's exactly the process I experienced as I matured as a music therapist! 

When I was a young music therapist I was always looking for bigger and better activities. I remember having session plans with lists of things: first we'll do this, then we'll do a bit of that, then we'll work on this, then we'll look at that... On and on. It was a never-ending quest to come up with the perfect activity that would finally motivate my clients. If this activity didn't work, surely another one would.

All to no avail. 

Then, when I started to receive clinical supervision, I learned that my clients are the "star ingredients" in a session. And I didn't need to focus on (or even do) activities. I just needed to learn as much as I could about the primary "ingredient" (my client) and to figure out which gentle seasonings (if you will) this person might need in order to truly emerge and shine.

Now I no longer do activities. Instead, I engage in the process of getting to know the wonderful flavors that make up the person sitting in front of me in a session. I use the music (as opposed to kitchen tools), sparingly at times, copiously at others, depending on how much is needed at a given point.

I have finally learned that it's not about how much I do in a session, but rather whether or not I was able to provide my client the space to be

Here's a link to the actual show if you'd like to see it and be inspired as well. 


Nikki Belshe said...

Love it!

Adelaide Dupont said...

Yes, the client is the primary ingredient.

You look at what they bring to a session.

Over your time as a music therapist, you get very good at discerning what they want to do and building on it.

Bigger is not better necessarily, for recipes, for music and for people.

TImothy Ringgold MT-BC said...

Well done!

We are human BEINGS, not Human DOINGS, you get it! Love the metaphors. I used to be nervous in sessions early on because I felt I had to follow the session plan. It became a lot easier when I learned to follow the patient to where I wanted to take them. Does that make sense? Like you said, it's all about giving them space to just be. Nobody gives that gift anymore. You give someone that gift, they'll follow you almost anywhere! Cheers.

Timothy Ringgold, MT-BC
Sonic Divinity Music Therapy Services

Michelle Erfurt said...

Thanks for the insight, Roia. It's interesting to apply the 'ingredient affect' to group situations... doesn't the total group dynamic change with a pinch of 'Jose' added or a dash of 'Mary' didn't make it in the pot? :)

Roia said...

Thank you, all, for your comments and for following my foodie logic. :-)
@nikki Thank you.

@Adelaide D- Bigger is only better when it involves chocolate. But I'm biased in that regard.

@Timothy R- Yup, it definitely makes sense. And it settled me down (and I'm sure, by extension, my clients) significantly when I realized I didn't always have to be doing something. Thanks for swinging by.

@Michelle- Or, put another way, "Just a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down." :-)

Ryan Howes, Ph.D. said...

What a wonderful observation, Roia. As someone who is just learning the finer points of cooking in his late 30's, I can relate. My "every spice in the rack stew" was interesting, but a perfectly cooked salmon with lemon is a much greater achievement. And the same definitely goes for therapy. Rather than throwing everything I learned in graduate school at the client in one session, doing one thing well has better results. Thank you for the metaphor!