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!


Michelle Strutzel said...

My heart reached out to you as I was reading your post! I imagine we'll all have to deal with these ups and downs throughout our whole lives. I always kick myself when I feel I didn't say the right thing, or I think of something better to say after the session is long over. I WISH all clients would make my sessions easy by participating and having non-stop fun, but that will not always be the case.

When I feel stuck in a session, I remind myself that I am not always doing so bad from the perspective of the receiving end. I think like anything in life, there will be good and bad days and bad days are what will make us better therapists... because we learn from them.

No worries, Roia! There will be better days to follow!

Roia said...

Well, Michelle, having done this for so long, I can tell you with great certainty that, yes, some days it feels as if everything's on the right track and some days you're convinced that you're not. I think half the battle for us (probably all of us- not just music therapists) is trusting that we're on the right track even when it doesn't feel/look that way.

So glad you stopped by for a read, and thank you so much for the thoughtful/supportive comments. :- )

Stephanie said...

Hi Roia!

I've really enjoyed your last few blog posts because they address many thoughts that I seem to be having lately. :)

I admit that it definitely affects me emotionally when I have a "bad" session - when I can't seem to figure out what to say or do to "fix things" - and I definitely struggle with feelings of incompetence when this happens. I always have to remind myself that many factors - including changes of schedule (hello, summer!), how the client is feeling physically (many of my clients are nonverbal and cannot communicate that they feel sick), and what they have done up to that point that day all affect how my client responds to music. I also find some comfort in the fact that I can take some time to reflect on what could have gone better and apply those thoughts to the next week!

I also struggle with what to do when a client (particularly a child client) does not want to participate in music. I feel like in my training, we were always told that music was inherently motivating - which it is! - but I left school with the incorrect notion that ALL kids are motivated by music ALL the time.

Thanks for the insightful post!

Roia said...

Stephanie, I so appreciate your sharing your experience! Thank you for your candor. My friend, Judy, and I did a presentation a few years ago at the Mid-Atlantic Regional conference on "The Myth of the Perfect Music Therapist", and I had tried to post parts of the handout on the blog, but for some (imperfect) reason, it just didn't...take. Odd.

Anyway, I agree. We leave school with this idea in our head that music is going to make the whole therapy process really easy. Obviously, not so much.

And, seriously, the whole rejection thing? You are not alone! One way I've coped with my clients saying "no" is to remember that it's a triumph when a person who doesn't use speech and has a disability conveys a "no" response, and it's respected.

Certainly, bummer sessions always give us an opportunity to question some of our beliefs with regard to what it means to be a music therapist and what we think it means to "do music therapy".

Thanks again for your comment!