A Not-New Reminder.

Writing can feel limiting for me.

I often compare my ideas for writing to other people’s. Then I toss my idea because they’ve already done it. You see, my struggle with writing is that of comparison to others. My observing mind overpowers my analytical mind. “I see that someone else has written about that subject in their blog so I should write about something else.” “This melody sounds like that song’s melody, I better change it.” Expression. expression. expression.

Why is that we as people are so critical of our own work and more accepting of someone else’s? Why is it that I scrap the melody of a song I’ve written because it is too similar to another song I’ve heard? Why do I scratch out a blog idea because someone else has already written about it? Why? Well…the same reason why our clients sometimes refuse to express their ideas in their own way. It is a vulnerable place. Expression makes us vulnerable. Expression is a window through the persona to the Self. When you express yourself, you express your Self. Why wouldn’t you feel indifferent about expressing yourself to a therapist whom you have just met? I am reminded, in my own struggle for creative expression, of how hard it must be for a non-musician receiving music therapy to open up in treatment. It’s hard and we need reminders in times of frustration. Maybe you’ve tried everything you know to do and a client still doesn’t reciprocate. Maybe a client is abrasive when cued verbally to engage. Maybe its time to take a step back and remember that for us music therapists and musicians, creative expression is second-nature (sometimes first!). For clients, it may be a difficult path with many bends and forks. Be patient and let the music fill the space and guide that person to trust. Trust the process.



Question Yourself.


When I was attending Appalachian State, I participated in Guided Imagery and Music (GIM) sessions (at the suggestion of an awesome faculty member) with a local music therapy graduate student. This was the first time I went to another therapist for a therapeutic need. My interests in mind-expansion and personal thought exploration were at a peak during this time of my life. Whenever I could sneak it in between subjects of my busy reading schedule for class, I would read Huxley, Jung, and Robert A. Johnson. The writings of these authors really opened me up to a richer life experience. I feel like a filter had been lifted and that I could see e world in a different way through observing in a different way and through self-assessment, or mindfulness.

My GIM sessions were based upon these notions of thought exploration, existentialism, and mind-expansion. I was experiencing what I felt to be a little bit of a meltdown. Between the tension of school, interpersonal tension, and my dwindling social life, to say I was stressed is an understatement. I not only needed to talk to a third-and-unrelated party, I needed to find a balance. My initial intention was to explore my mind in an altered state to gain a deeper understanding of who I was…to find myself through music at a level of consciousness I had never explored. I wanted to have a deeper understanding of my perception of the world around me. I wanted to find new perspectives. I wanted to find this deeper meaning without having to tell myself to do so. I accepted this responsibility as one that I did not have to try to accomplish. I put my trust in the music and the therapeutic process.

After the first session, I really was never the same. I don’t know if I’m a huge believer in catharsis, but what I experienced had to be close to it. This session was pivotal epiphany. The imagery was that of me on a dirt path. I tried to take a step to move forward but could not. This took approximately 35 minutes of the allotted 45-minute intervention. I was stuck. The last 10 minutes were all very random. I feel like the images that followed were meaningless, apart from learning how to navigate and explore this new world. The verbal processing that followed was the pivotal moment through which I feel I gained not only a deeper understanding of myself, but of the therapeutic process. I realized that a change was coming and that it was me that needed to initiate the change. I was in control but for some reason I neglected the reigns. I was too dependent on everything around me and felt as though things would just happen because I felt that’s what everyone else was doing. Everyone else made it all look so easy and i was having a difficult time with things. School would shape me into the therapist I was supposed to be. I finally figured out that the therapist I was going to be wasn’t reliant on school or anyone else but myself. I am my own therapist. I practice clinically within professional guidelines, but the interventions I plan and implement are of my own discretion. My clinical approach and implementation techniques are mine as a therapist and molded by what I learned in school and through my clinical work everyday.

This is something I have to remind myself. I am my own therapist. Sometimes I get caught up in the thought, “Would they do this?”, ” I wonder what she would do for this client”. Why is that? My clients progress toward their objectives, so my clinical approach and interventions are working. Why question myself as a therapist?

Because it’s healthy to do so.

I consider this questioning to be a type of ongoing personal assessment. It keeps my creativity flowing and it makes me a better therapist. So this thought exploration is ongoing, this personal assessment, this questioning. I keep a journal of these thoughts to see how my thought processes may change or effect my planning process. I find it helpful to reflect on these thought comparisons. Being the only music therapist in my facility was tough at first because of this. I had no one else to observe or co-treat with so of course I would feel like I needed to be implementing other interventions. After a while the connection was made…this thought comparison, these questions I was asking myself…they weren’t my Shadow Self peeking through to make me feel blue…these questions were there to help…and that’s what they continue to do.

New Musics…

You know that feeling you get when you absolutely cannot find the right thing to listen to and just before you decide to read or do something else, you find a new song? Maybe you discover you actually like a genre you once before didn’t particularly like? Well let me say that that moment, as taxing as it can be on my nerves really feels good to work through. Patience. John Cage said,

“If something is boring after two minutes, try it for four. If still boring, then eight. Then sixteen. Then thirty-two. Eventually one discovers that it is not boring at all.”

This has always spoken to me on more levels than in just music.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some things from which one will never find anything of substance, but those are things that typically have such an already established perception you can’t ever seem to find anything about it you like. (especially if there are moral differences.) But I am not talking about those ordeals. I tend to be quick to make assumptions about music I choose to listen to on a personal basis, just from being aware of the generation of folks who like the music. Let’s take my recently found appreciation for the genre of “dubstep”.

Initially, I did not give the genre a chance, as it was my assumption that the genre itself was simply built upon remixes of “cookie-cutter” pop songs of which I typically do not listen. I appreciate and enjoy music that is made organically and not electronically. I use the word organically loosely as I certainly appreciate distorted guitars and the occasional keytar solo. Until recently, I had only listened to just the beginning of a few dubstep songs and it only confirmed my assumption that dubstep was recycled billboard pop songs. However, with my recent subscription to Spotify, my library of music has grown…significantly…infinitesimally, rather. A friend of mine had an electronic playlist, including some electronic artists that I am familiar with and own albums by. On this playlist, there were dubstep tracks that I did not realize I was listening to until it was too late…I was already sucked into the genre I before avoided. There are correlations between this genre and other genres that I appreciate. Granted, many dubstep artists have created music containing lyrics that I do not care for, so I am still picky in that regard, however, a great majority of the songs I have found, are quite enjoyable. It is very reminiscent of some great 80’s music with a slight heavy metal twist, in regards to “the beat dropping” rather heavily. (for a lack of a better way of putting it)

So my challenge to you, is to try a new genre. It is never an issue for me to learn music outside of the genres I prefer when it is a client who requested the music. I absolutely put my personal preference aside to learn music that can help my client benefit to the fullest, so this challenge is for your own personal music listening experiences. Can you think of a genre that you avoid for whatever reason? Maybe you find it boring or maybe you just never gave it a shot before. I was reminded of the Cage quote through giving dubstep a try. What will his quote inspire you to try?