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.

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Finding Meaning in Music

Existentialism was unknown to me until my junior year. It was a professor who first mentioned Viktor Frankl to me in the form of an optional Christmas break reading assignment of “Man’s Search for Meaning.” At that stage in my life, I would have normally observed the break and would have left my schoolwork in Boone, but not this time. The extra reading assignment came at the end of the lecture on Existentialism in my Models of Mental Health in Music Therapy class.

This was the class in which I really and truly got to learn more about my classmates. I wasn’t really surprised to find out that some classmates aligned with a Cognitive Behavioral approach and others aligned, or just seemed to fit into, a Humanistic approach, etc. For me it was Existentialism and somewhere deep down inside of me I knew that I needed to read “Man’s Search for Meaning” over the Christmas break.

I connected with something. It is what I now know of (from my love of Jung) as a connection with the Collective Unconscious. It was a “light bulb” moment. The world made sense, all of my ducks were in a row, colors seemed brighter, etc. You get the picture. I was hooked on finding meaning in events or feelings I had. I couldn’t get enough of Viktor Frankl and his Logotherapy. (“logo” = meaning) “meaning”-therapy. What an excellent idea. If one can find meaning in their suffering then they have overcome it.

I was rejuvenated when break was over. I set a new objective to incorporate my newfound existential beliefs into my own music therapy work. I realized that these were thought processes that I had before, but now with focus. I felt strong. This semester my practicum was in a psychiatric setting so I was able to immediately apply my newly honed skills. I was able to verbally process with clients in a more creative way…in a way that was more conducive for their treatment. Finding meaning in whatever perceived negative reason they were in the facility was almost novel to the patients.

Fitting Existentialism into music came natural for me. Most people that I engaged in music therapy during this practicum in psychiatric care were able to relate the music I had selected for their lyric analysis and relate the meaning they found in the music to whatever situation they were experiencing in their life at that moment. The art of finding meaning in life’s experiences is completely subjective. The meaning found in music and art is subjective as well. That being said, isn’t it true that given the right guidance, through music, we all have within ourselves the ability to heal ourselves? I’ve had clients say that they had “never looked at that song that way before.” Music is multi-dimensional in the ways we can enjoy and experience it. People who, upon entering treatment, felt as though they had nothing left to live for, expressed feelings of great happiness and appreciation of life after they heard and sang along to a familiar song that elicited feelings…and those feelings were attached to meaning….Man’s search for meaning through music.

My mantra is “trust the process.” If we trust in ourselves and in our psyche, then no matter what suffering or great success we may experience on life’s journey, we can search for the meaning of our experiences, through which we can grow into the person we are to be, and be alive and well and enjoy the fullness our whole Self can bring.

The Potential Energy of Waiting…Don't Let Time Get You Down

Don't let time get you down

For the past three months I have made lots of phone calls. The phone calls were to healthcare centers, mental health clinics, learning enrichment centers, Hospices, nursing homes, hospitals, etc. The subject of each phone call was music therapy. I called near an amount of 80 establishments to ask if they were interested in any music therapy service…full-time, contract, consult, inservice? Most of the answers were…you guessed it, “We can’t afford those services now, call back in a month.” The “call back in a month part”, I believe was an easy let down because when I called them back they seemed to forget our first conversation. That was how it went for the first two months of the calling and networking.

I took my board-certification exam on June 30th and am now officially a professional music therapist, baring the credentials MT-BC. June 30th also marked the two month mark of my attempts to land music therapy contracts with several businesses.  Now that a bit of time has passed, I now have accepted contracts with four establishments, giving several presentations/inservices, and led informative meetings about music therapy services for each respective business I now contract my services through.

The potential energy of waiting refers to the tension, frustration, and sometimes anger involved in waiting for these companies to just say “YES!” The payoff, or kinetic energy of the waiting, is then huge. When you become frustrated because you have put a considerable amount of time into a project, whatever it may be, that adds to the potential energy, which in return adds momentum to the project once you complete the task. This rewards you with not only a grand feeling of success but with the momentum to continue the success in order to better set up what you are doing. That is where I want to be in the next two weeks.

I feel that I am at the apex of something wonderful. The potential energy of waiting has motivated me to put in the amount of work to get the contracts I have obtained. This success, though initial, has motivated Caroline and I to start Creative Therapy. Creative Therapy is our music therapy contract service business. Creative Therapy based in Salisbury, NC and I offer music therapy on a contractual basis with healthcare organizations within an hour radius. I offer services for families and individuals in their home as well.

I didn’t think any of this could happen, but it did. I attribute the initial success of Creative Therapy to the potential energy of waiting. Don’t let time get you down, let it motivate you to do more!