Sunday, May 29, 2011

Journal Prompt #3 (When music therapists go bad)

I used to have Super Human PowersImage by Esparta via FlickrYesterday, I felt like a bad therapist. 

I was tired from awful allergies (and the ends of a lingering cold), and I didn't feel great physically (and, let me tell you, there was some serious whining going on). And, yeah, okay, the truth is I just plain started out the day with an attitude. 

But I figured, "Come on, Roia! It's Saturday, you only have three sessions with three different guys. They're good guys. You really like working with them. It'll be fine. Stop your kvetching, and go do your sessions and you and your aches and pains will survive." 

Great. Pep talk done. Let's do it!

Maybe it was because it was a holiday weekend (with little hope of their seeing family members), maybe it was that it was a fairly nice day outside and they were all stuck indoors, maybe they all had allergies, maybe they thought my sunscreen smelled weird...I don't know what it was!  But my clients weren't exactly in jovial moods either. 


There we all were with our collective attitudes in the various sessions, and there I was just...not making sense, not saying or doing anything particularly- I don't know- therapeutic. I found myself wondering why the heck I was saying what I was saying.

And all I could think was "what is with you today, woman?"

I was so not being a shining example of music therapy and all the fabulosity that goes with it. 

Yes, I know that I probably wasn't as awful as I felt  I was being. And, yes, I realize that it's all "grist for the mill" (as my clinical supervisor has always said), and it's all part of a much larger process/context. And, sure, it's true that even a bad day of music therapy (when you live in an institution) is probably not as bad as all that, but I like my clients. I want to do right by them, and I felt kind of badly that I was less present than I would have preferred. 

And I was also annoyed that they were (at least in my perception of things) making me work so damned hard! Waaah! [We're whining...we're whining...]


So, perhaps you can journal (or sing, or play, or create some form of art, or develop your own whining rant) about a day (or, heck, a week or a month) when you felt as if you were having a hard time being the kind of  music therapist you like to think you are.

What are some of the idea(l)s/myths you have about who/how you "should" be as a music therapist? 

What are some of the idea(l)s/myths you hold in your mind about who your clients "should" be and how they should act/respond/deal with stuff when they're in music therapy with you?

And how do all these idea(l)s and myths affect how therapy goes some days? And how do you cope with days when you feel as if you are less than stellar?

Bring it on, my fellow bloggies!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

It's a (musical) process

As I thought further about Video Journal #1 I did some writing about it and this is the song that emerged from that bit of processing. 

I think I said everything else I needed to say on the actual video. 

I do, however, want to reiterate the fact that using music to process my sessions has been incredibly useful in terms of trying to understand what may be going on for the folks I see for music therapy. Since they aren't able to use speech (and even if they were, none of us are always completely aware of why we feel out of sorts, and that's what we have our therapists for), I try to use the countertransference material so that I have better questions to ask.

Here, as promised, are the lyrics (with my further hypotheses thrown in for good measure in between things). (Apparently I didn't say everything I had to say on the video.) (Oy.) Sorry if it gets a bit difficult to read:

Blowin' In the Wind 
(Thank you, Bob Dylan!)

How many roads must a man walk down before you call him a man?
     (So much in just the first line alone! Many of the initial countertransference songs with this particular person were songs sung by girls- not just women, girls. And I have had the sense, off and on, that trying to develop an identity as a man has been an issue for him. Living in an institution, not using speech to communicate, and being seen as a disabled person first doesn't exactly  enhance one's sense of self much either.)
Yes, 'n', how many seas must a white dove sail before she sleeps in the sand?
Yes, 'n' how many times must the cannon balls fly before they're forever banned? 
The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind, the answer is blowin' in the wind.
     (This may or may not be stretching it a bit, but I wonder if he feels as if he's "blowin' in the wind" without a real sense of direction/meaning/purpose in his life.) 

How many times must a man look up before he can see the sky? 
     (Maybe this means something and maybe not, but his days are spent in a room that doesn't have any windows at eye level, and the windows that are there are, ironically, very high up and next to the very high ceiling.)
Yes, 'n' how many ears must one man have before he can hear people cry?
     (There's that whole sense of futility there and feeling unacknowledged and frustrated.)
Yes, 'n' how many deaths will it take 'til he knows that too many people have died?
The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind, the answer is blowin' in the wind.

How many years can a mountain exist before it is washed to the sea?
Yes, 'n' how many years can some people exist before they're allowed to be free?
     (I'm sure this line speaks- loudly- for itself, but it certainly connects to the feeling of being bound and stuck.)
Yes, 'n' how many times can a man turn his head pretending he just doesn't see?
     (I don't know about any of you, but this line always makes me sad, and it is particularly poignant in this context.)
The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind, the answer is blowin' in the wind.
     (Oh, I just realized that one of the struggles I've had in this man's sessions is this sense of "I don't know" and perpetual uncertainty. The answer, indeed, seems elusive!)

The answer is blowin' in the wind. 
One last thought: I'm always amazed at how clearly my clients are able to convey to me when I am (finally) on the right track. There is such a sense of discomfort within me until I'm finally able to process (or at least start to make sense of) the feelings that come up as a result of projective identification. Once the processed material is shared with my client, and the response seems to be, "yes, you're understanding me," I experience a literal internal shift, and the discomfort eases almost immediately. 

Monday, May 16, 2011

Video journal #1 (So THAT's what Countertransference Sounds Like)

Seriously. What is with me and all this numbering? 


With all this conversation about trying different forms of journaling (okay, maybe there wasn't any actual conversation, but it's definitely something that's been on my mind), I decided I wanted to try a video journal. So I did an improvisation after a session. Here's what that looked/sounded like: 

After I listened to it, it occurred to me that it sounded sad and sort of poignant. I was struck by how extremely consonant it was as well. I didn't think it would be. I guess the point is that maybe on some level I did know what might have been going on in the session, but it just hadn't become conscious yet. 

Friday, May 13, 2011

Journal Prompt #2 (Who are you again?)

A photo of The Thinker by Rodin located at the...Image via WikipediaWow! First, let me thank all of you who were kind enough to join me in this path of self-reflection and exploration! It has been so neat to hear from you and read your thoughts and responses. I've truly been honored that you've taken the time to share your experiences, and I'm excited to hear/read/see more as we progress!

For my part, I have started to make short videos after some of my sessions (particularly with clients who challenge me or about whom I find I have a lot of feelings) in which I share my thoughts and reactions regarding the therapy experience on that particular day and then play a musical improvisation describing what it was like to be in the session.

It has been interesting for me to hear how being with different clients "sounds" (at least from my own musically and verbally expressed point of view). Of course, it's hard not to hear my own issues and musical patterns creeping into the music (oh, yeah, therapy 'til I'm dead, baby). 

I'm sort of wanting to share some of the videos, but I want to be sure I'm not violating any ethical rules and/or regulations in order to do so.

Meanwhile, it got me to thinking about Journal Prompt #2:

For most of us, during our busy weeks, we see lots of clients. And there are always the people we work with who stay with us and stick in our minds. 

But there are also clients we completely forget until we see them the next week.
And I started to wonder, why?

Who am I forgetting? Do I forget this person/group all the time? Or is there something going on with this particular client/group that I just want to avoid? Or that I don't like dealing with for some reason? 

What is this person triggering within me? Is it something about this person? Or is something going on with me? Why is it this person/group that I forget?

What is it about this person that feels "forgettable" to me? What might the fact that I'm forgetting this person/group be helping me know/learn/wonder about how this person perceive(s) him/herself? 

How does my forgetting this person/group have meaning in the context of this individual/group's life?


As you can (plainly) see, it was kind of difficult for me to formulate the questions, but, for me anyway, that's part of the process- figuring out better questions to ask myself. If you come up with a better question to ask (or simply find a better way to word the questions I already tried to ask), do tell.

As always, if you feel comfortable sharing, you're welcome to use the comments section to offer your thoughts or (if you blog) post a link to your blog post or You Tube video. Perhaps you might want to play contrasting musical portraits (a Ken Bruscia suggestion) of a client you think of often and a client you tend to forget, and either video or audio tape the improvisations. Or write a song about a client you've forgotten and share it with us. 

I so look forward to your latest installments!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Journal Prompt #1 (The sounds of silence)

Inspired by the very pleasant time I had with the "Joys of Journaling" workshop participants last night (thanks, guys!), I thought it might be cool to dedicate a weekly (or so) (we can always hope) blog post to sharing ideas with you of things you might like to explore and process in some form of journal.

You could do your journaling in the "old fashioned way, with pen and paper and keep it private (which would be glorious). Or you could do it in an alternative (and more public) form (such as in a blog post, a vlog, as a song, a musical improvisation, a piece of artwork, poetry, or in whatever fascinating form you come up with that I haven't even thought of yet).

The way I see it, you'd be welcome (heck, you'd be encouraged!) to share your thoughts through the Comments you leave (just share a link to the web-place you'd like us to visit to check out your thoughts, ideas, insights and artwork). 

So, in honor of this being the very first journal prompt (hence the title: Journal Prompt #1- not a particularly inspired title, I know, but this is about you and your journaling journey and not so much about me and my weird blog post titles), I'll invite you to think about what we worked on last night:

Think about the experience of silence in your sessions:
Have you had a session in which there was silence for a period of time? Either your silence, your client's silence, or a silent group?
Explore what this silence felt like?
If you could have given it a sound, what sort(s) of sound would best express this silence?
How do you usually respond to silence (outside of your work)? Why?
What was it about this silence that evoked the particular response/reaction you experienced?
Ask yourself: if I were to visually describe this silence (or perhaps create a piece of art or movement), perhaps to kinesthetically express this silence, what would it look, sound, and/or feel like?
What are the qualities you'd find yourself exaggerating? And what are the qualities you might have ignored?
If there aren't any silences in your sessions at all, what's that like? And why?

Go for it, my friends! 

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Joys of Journaling

DiaryAllenGardinerImage via WikipediaI will be conducting a workshop tomorrow evening (that would be on May 5th, or Cinco de Mayo, as it were) on The Joys of Journaling. It's a part of the Kardon Institute for the Arts Self-Care Series down in Philadelphia.

In honor of this event, I dug out my very first diary which I got for Christmas when I was ten years old. (I know, I know, why the heck is a person with a Jewish mother and a Muslim father getting Christmas presents? What can I tell you? We like giving/getting presents in our family, and we like Christmas songs. I mean, what's not to like?)

Anyway, I've been reading some of the things I wrote back when I was a mere 10, and I have to say they are hilariously funny and sort of poignant from my now forty-five year-old perspective. 

It's interesting (okay, and it's a little embarrassing) to re-visit my younger self and to remember what was so important back then that it caused me all manner of angst. 

It's been an absolute delight preparing for this workshop, because it's no longer (ahem) 1976, and the options for journaling have expanded exponentially. I mean, with the advent of technology (let alone the gradual expansion of my no longer all that young mind) there are, literally, no limits to the many fascinating and creative ways we can come up with to record and to explore our thoughts, feelings, reactions, ideas, identities, and general...stuff!

Admittedly, even though I very much enjoy writing (and reading!) blog posts, and I've certainly written my share of songs that started out in journal form, I remain true to my favorite form of journaling: I have a big stack of trusty wire-bound, college-ruled notebooks filled with the scribbling of whatever comfortable fine-tipped ball-point pen was serving me at the time. 

Now, the plan for tomorrow is to try out some journaling exercises, and I'm hoping to work some music-making in there as a part of the self-discovery process as well. I'll be taking along my little Flip camera and my tape recorder (yes, I did just say that- it's a great gadget, and I adore it for writing songs), so we can try out some alternative journal forms. 

I truly love the act of journaling (even though I sometimes actively avoid it for a period of time until I'm ready to jump in there and look at my stuff). The way I see it, journaling is a conversation I have with myself. 

In terms of being a music therapist, it's helped me define who I am, what I think about the work I do, and, most importantly, it's helped me to learn how to pay attention.

Writing in my diary gives me a chance to say things I can't say to my clients, and it helps me think about why I want to say those things in the first place. It gives me a chance to think through sessions that confound me, and it's a wonderful way to explore the things within me that make it hard for me to hear what my clients (and the other patient people in my life) are trying to say. 

I'm wondering if there are others of you out there who find journaling to be helpful in terms of deepening your work as a music (or any other kind of) therapist. I'd love to hear of your experiences.