Knowing who I am and what kind of emotional baggage I'm carrying around with me helps me be present and attentive to the clients I serve when I show up to provide music therapy.
When my clients do their best to avoid hearing me invite them to look at a belief they're strongly committed to (sometimes even going so far as to literally stick their fingers in their ears), when they fall asleep mid-session because something we're addressing feels way too overwhelming, when they fight mightily against change...I have a pretty good idea of what it's like. I've felt and done the same (okay, maybe I don't actually stick my fingers in my ears or fall asleep in therapy, but I can be pretty darned noisy if I don't want to know something).
I'll be honest with you: I am uncomfortable recommending any music therapist I know who hasn't spent at least some time looking at his/her own issues in therapy. I mean, what are we communicating to our clients if we think we're above getting our own therapy? If we, essentially, perpetuate the attitude of stigmatization associated with taking care of one's emotional and mental health?
One of the (many) reasons I loved the HBO show In Treatment was that the writers made sure the therapist, Paul Weston, went (even though he was kicking and screaming the whole way and was more of a pain in his own sessions than any of his clients ever were in theirs) for his own therapy!
Psychotherapy for therapists goes beyond the usual nice, self-care sorts of things we tend to talk about in music therapy circles (you know...the whole getting a massage, taking regular vacations, taking a bubble bath and the like). It's an ongoing commitment to self-discovery, a recognition that, yes, we can and do get in our own (as well as our clients') ways, and figuring out how to (much as we may bravely resist) make changes in our perceptions and ideas about our selves, our lives, and our relationships.
So, good people, with a grateful nod to Ryan Howes (a blogging buddy who shares his insights over at the Psychology Today blogs as well as being a contributing editor at the Psychotherapy Networker), I invite you to consider how you might join in the acknowledgement and celebration of National Psychotherapy Day.
After all, mental health and self-awareness are most certainly worthy of celebration!