Sorry I haven’t written in a few days. I’ve had so many ideas for good posts I couldn’t settle on one for a while there.
I had an interesting experience today. There’s a local expressive arts therapy center that I sometimes go to. They’re a wonderful group practice, consisting of two highly trained and dedicated expressive arts therapists who are commited to providing high quality and affordable therapy and other artistic experiences to anyone who needs them. Today was there weekly music group. It’s basically a music therapy group, but the person who runs it I don’t think can technically call it that since she’s not a board certified music therapist. But having taken a music therapy intro class, trust me I know it’s music therapy! She follows the typical protocol for a group session pritty closely.
One of the main reasons I go to the group is to listen to the leader sing. She’s originally from Affrica and has such an amazing and flexible voice. She also plays the guitar very well, and the drumms and probably other instruments. You can tell music and singing are a real driving force in her life. When she sings and plays she just lights up from the inside, you can tell how much it energizes her. To me, this is theraputic in and of itself.
She started off the session off by singing a “hello song,” a very common thing in music therapy. It’s a way to get everyone settled into the session, and establish that it’s music time. Some people need that grounding and obveous transition, like those with dementia, and those with developmental delays, two populations that happened to be in our group. The group consisted of myself, and about four or five men, (who I believe were elderly, though without being able to see them I can’t be sure of their age,)who either had developmental delays, or some sort of pritty obveous issues with communication and staying present and focused in the group. There was also an elderly woman with dementia, who has been to the group before. And that was all of us. I was the most engaged of the bunch. I was the only one who sang with the group leader. I enjoyed playing the drum and singing along with the songs I knew. I also enjoyed observing how the therapist lead the group. At one point, one of the other members got confused and tried to leave the group. The leader continued playing the drum and tried to sing to her,”stay here, stay with us, (her name)” When this didn’t work, she sang a song in this person’s native language which was familiar and allowed them to be able to stay in the room. I thought this was an excellent intervention, and showed the power of music to reach people, even those who become so inaccessible due to dementia and similar problems. The leader also had to deal with issues of group member’s short attention span, and barriers around communication. Again I saw the power of musical interventions to help with this. She was good at reading the group and switching the activitys quickly when necessary. Her background in theater improvisation makes her very flexible and adaptable , which was a great help here. She praised and encouraged everyone to play their instruments and/or sing, especially those who at times were doing neither. She praised even the smallest creative act, and this ensured that by the end of the group everyone was more expressive than at the beginning. One of the group members showed off their skills on the piano, as is the traddition in this group. It was enjoyable for everyone, as we supported their playing with drumms and our voices. One of the group members wanted to make up a song, which we all helped him do. At the close of the group there is a “goodbye song” with a similar purpose to the first song of the session, to emphasize that the group is ending but will be back next week.
Overall I enjoyed the group. Despite our varied backgrounds and abilities, there was a certain magic that I think always exists when a group of people comes together to sing and play. I left feeling more energized and like I’d expressed myself and felt connected to the group, even for brief moments during the music. As I said before I enjoyed watching the therapist lead, and thinking about what I would have done in those situations. I think she certainly needs an assistant, there were just so many different needs in the room that I’m sure it was hard for her to keep up with it all. And maybe if an assistant could have given more one on one attention to certain people, there might have been more expression and improvements in communication across the group. The therapist said an intern will be at the group maybe next time, so it’ll be interesting to see if that makes a difference.
Lastly, I’m just amazed that you can do all that theraputic work with music and not have to call yourself a music therapist! I guess the therapist does have her masters in expressive arts therapy. Couldn’t I just magically get my masters without having to deal with the hard work of more school? Please? Oh well, guess not! Anyway, it was just so inspiring to be a part of that session. Maybe I’ll go to another one just so I can post about it. If anyone out there is a music therapist, or interested in the subject I welcome your thoughts. Or anyone who just liked what I wrote as well. Have a good night all!