Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Taboo Topics in Music Therapy- Part One

December 10, 2009: Mum's the WordImage by Mr.Thomas via Flickr
It was time. I hadn't been to or presented at a conference since March of 2008 in Cherry Hill (that would be in New Jersey) (at the Mid-Atlantic Regional conference of the American Music Therapy Association) (or MAR-AMTA for short) (MAR for even shorter) (I mean, geez!).

So I started to think to myself, "what can I talk about that hasn't been talked about before? Or that I haven't talked about before? How can I make this useful for people?" 

I've done presentations about working with adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities and autism, countertransference, looking at power and control, using music therapy to support people with disabilities who have been abused (which is an awful lot of people), survival skills for new music therapists, the myth of the perfect music therapist, paying attention, feeling powerless as a therapist...

What could possibly be left?

Oh, yeah. The stuff nobody talks about in the music therapy field (or so it seems). Things like, "what do I do when my client starts to masturbate in the middle of the session?" or "my client seems to hate me!" Or "oh, my God, I think I have a crush on my client!" 

Those are actually only the very shiny surface of the whole collection of stuff we don't talk about as music therapists. The list, as I discovered when I did this presentation a couple of weeks ago, is endless! 

No. Seriously. 

I had a room full of music therapy professionals and students (thanks for the presentation love, guys!) coming up with item after situation after topic for me to add to the big list we were generating on the giant flip chart!

There are so many things that simply aren't addressed in school, in the literature, at conferences! 

And here's a taboo topic for you:  we music therapists can often make it seem as if our work is all sorts of "sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows!"

Well, okay. That can be true. Sometimes it does look all happy and easy, and sometimes it is fun, but music therapy is hard work! 

It's therapy! 

Being a music therapist can be hard work too. It's our job to say out loud to our clients the stuff  that isn't being said. 

And what I wanted to do with this presentation (and I think we accomplished that) was to say out loud the taboo topics in our field. The stuff nobody talks about or writes about, but that we have to deal with every day in our sessions.

My official "mantra" for the month:

It's the stuff we don't look at and we don't talk about that gets us into trouble.

Likely this is the same stuff people don't like to talk about in general, but, as music therapists, it seems (to me anyway) as if it would be a good idea if we're willing to look at the stuff that makes us uncomfortable. 

After all, we're asking our clients to look at the things that make them uncomfortable. Aren't we?

[Coming up next time: The handout from the conference]


Anonymous said...

Ooooo. Keeping us in suspense! I can't wait to see the list of all the taboo topics. I would write one personal example here, but perhaps I'll email you in confidentiality instead.

Roia said...

Sorry about the suspense. I just didn't want to make the post four miles long.

Meanwhile, I was having internet issues yesterday so I couldn't even work on Part II.

Hm, maybe we could have a Taboo Topics Confessional set up...

Isochiral Music said...

Somehow, I can't see that what we do compares with a child masturbating in class, or whatever (s)he is doing. Still, I love your blog and all the ideas you have. I've read it and loved it; your spontaneity is wonderful. Please don't stop. And I love the idea of a Taboo Topics Confessional. :-)

Roia said...

I can not even *count* how many times I've had to say "put it away, put it away, put it away now" in music therapy sessions (with apologies to the Red Hot Chili Peppers) over the last (ahem) 24 years!

Thanks, though, for stopping by to read and comment and share your kind words. Not being Catholic, I have to wonder how one would go about setting up a confessional online. Anyone? Anyone? Maybe it could be like that secrets postcard book or something. This, here: http://www.amazon.com/Secret-Lives-Men-Women-PostSecret/dp/0061198757/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1327892105&sr=8-3