Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Taboo Topics in Music Therapy- Part III- The List (so far)

Here's a list of taboo topics I generated. I found I had to keep adding to it as I went along. I also included many of the offerings of the conference participants. Feel free to comment and add your own. I dare say there are quite a few taboos to be found in music therapy as yet. 

Taboos (I have known and loved)

1. Sexual feelings and/or arousal
a. for clients
b. dreams about clients
c. our clients feelings about us

2. Fantasies
a. that we will be the one person who makes a difference in our clients’ lives (or that we are the be-all and end-all in their lives)
b. sexual fantasies
c. fantasies of taking clients home and taking care of them, also known as “rescue fantasies”
d. dreaming about clients

3. Mistakes on the part of the music therapist

4. Fee disasters/money/financial transactions

5. Hatred for/anger toward a patient
a. hating a patient’s music
b. clients who are hurting/frustrating us

6. Getting sick and not being able to do your job for a while
a. can include mental illness as well as physical (i.e., needing to take a break from work)
b. music therapists who have mental illness
c. fear of getting sick when working with clients who have communicable diseases

7. Feelings of incompetence
a. not knowing what to do in a session
b. feeling lost
c. feeling uncertain musically

8. Feeling that we need to be all-knowing, all loving (a.k.a. “Music Therapist Syndrome”- the belief that we must always be nice and cheerful, and that it is our job to make our clients feel better, and that we should never be “mean” and confront them or push them in any way or to talk about “sad” subjects.

9. Feeling bored or tired/sleepy during sessions

10. Clients who gross us out or offend us

11. Therapist’s fears/terrors

12. Therapist’s personal issues around shame/guilt
a. May include therapist’s own abuse history

13. Being fired

14. Issues with staff/co-workers/clients’ families
a. having to report staff/clients’ families for abuse/neglect/etc.
b. fears of retaliation should we report abuse
c. dealings with staff regarding clients (having differences of opinion)
d. staff undermining our efforts as therapists

15. Being uncomfortable with the system within which we work
a. disagreeing with the way client services are provided
b. having to represent a facility we don’t always feel comfortable with

16. Boundary violations
a. treating clients or their families as friends
b. hugging/touching clients as a matter of course
c. violating client confidentiality

17. Guilt over terminating/guilt over not terminating
a. “I should have tried harder.”
b. not working on closure
c. difficult endings
d. ending because we don’t know what else to do

18. Fear of violent clients or those who act out in other ways
a. constant anxiety when having to go and work with a particular client

19. Clients who fall asleep in sessions
a. leading to fear that we are inept or ineffective therapists
b. that we’re doing something wrong or boring

20. Having favorites
a. when we admit it we’re less likely to act on it than if we deny it.
b. also the belief that we have to love all of our clients

21. Fear that a client may commit suicide
a. along with the fear that we will miss the warning signs and it will be our fault
b. and the corresponding fantasy that we will be the one to save this client

22. Being in the role of “helper”
a. discomfort with being in the role of ‘helper’
b. not being aware of the power difference between client/therapist

23. Seeing clients as more disabled than they are
a. sometimes leads to an attitude that “they don’t understand what we’re doing, so it won’t hurt them” (this is the kind of belief that can lead to situations like the one with Corey Brown, the music therapist who molested his clients)

24. Working with someone your own age
a. Or working with someone you’ve known in a different context (including survivor guilt)

25. Running into clients outside of the therapy context
a. Clients who want to connect through various online social networks
b. Clients asking for sex/marriage/personal phone numbers
c. Clients who grope themselves/who try to grope the music therapist

26. Clients who are better musicians than we are

27. The myth of music as a “non-threatening” medium

28. Guilt over privilege

29. Assuming our clients are heterosexual, or identify as a particular gender

30. Hating a particular style of music and/or refusing to learn or play a particular style in music therapy sessions

31. Clients dying or getting seriously ill (sometimes in the middle of a session)

32. Racism, sexism, able-ism, heterosexism (in all of their infinite varieties and forms)

33. Music therapists who do not dress in a professional manner (i.e., whose dress is seductive or overly casual)

Why we don’t talk about these things (some of these reasons are taboos in and of themselves, I would say):

  • We don’t always know the answer
  • We don’t want to look unprofessional/bad
  • Ashamed/embarrassed/fear of being blamed
  • Music therapy students who are over-protected/over-directed
  • Not always recognizing countertransference
  • Helplessness
  • Not wanting to deal with repercussions
  • Competition between colleagues
  • Not having a supervisor/mentor/safe resource
  • The need to constantly “prove” that music therapy is a valid therapy
  • Wanting to be a good example
  • Diminishing the impact of an issue (i.e., making light of a difficult topic)
  • Fear of being seen as a fake/incompetent


Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this! I think all MTs have come across at least 75% of these, even in the first years of being in the profession.

mquirk12 said...

Thanks for posting this Roia! We all are faced with the majority of these taboos whether we admit it or not. I remember you presenting on this topic at a conference and I'm sorry I missed it! These are all valid concerns and important issues. Another misconception that I used to have was trying to validate music therapy more than another modality such as pt,ot or speech. Email me if you have anything more mquirk12@yahoo.com



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