One music therapist confessed, "Although I profess myself as a 'music therapist,' I cannot keep my own peacefulness when I deal with the personnel problems at the work, and sometimes I blame myself for it." This person is the leader of a music therapists organization. Another young music therapist said, "While I declare to lend a helping hand to the clients, I have so much of the egotistic mind in myself, which I am ashamed of."
You might regard these as the extreme statements. However, in the society like Japan where music therapy is not yet firmly established as a profession and the practical management of the work largely rely on individual's goodwill and effort, it is not rare to be lost in this kind of psychological maze. Does a music therapist have to be a "noble person?"
This made me start thinking about "the portrait of proficient music therapist." It is often true that the competent music therapists also have attractive personalities. We all have the experiences, in the process of deeply engaged in this field, to have met the older music therapists with fascinating personalities and been influenced by them. In other words, not only their "professional advocacies" but also their "behavior" and "atmosphere" had strong impacts on us to be encouraged and supported.
On the contrary, sometimes we get the impressions such as "I know this person is super in this field, but I feel a kind of discomfort actually meeting him/her in person." In that case, one feels a little discouraged but might convince oneself, "I shouldn't be swayed by my personal feelings, since his/her professional achievement receives the high regards." Furthermore, when we continually hear the reputation of the "excellence in both achievement and personality" on one therapist, it is usual for the human being to grow the feeling of suspicion: "Is it really true? Maybe is it only a crafted image?" This might be a start for all of us to favor gossips. At any case, what do we expect for a portrait of a music therapist? And is that image right?
The first common element we recognize as attractive in a music therapist might be "the equal attitude to people." There is a tendency that the more highly the society is industrialized, the more rigorously the people in it are categorized according to their abilities, functions, or health and illness, being discriminated in visible/ invisible ways. However, music therapists keep the fundamental attitude to respect the either group as a unique existence. It is probably because we own the equal and universal medium "music." The music created by the good music therapists does not discriminate human beings. It is as if from their souls the love for the person in his/her true light is consistently welling, which is manifesting as the audible music.
Secondly, I see "courage and actions" as the common feature in them. In our daily life, we tend to be locked up in the conventional "verbal" relationship, or even in the "digital" relationship, that is rapidly prevailing in Japanese society. However, the proficient music therapists can approach people from the uniquely different directions and build a new dimensional relationship, sometimes in an amazingly bold manner. This I would call "musical relationship" symbolized with courage and actions. It does not only mean that they can efficiently utilize music for the therapy communication, but also that they can color any kind of human-relationship with the "musical" tone, which re-captures our interrelationship in a fresh and stereoscopic way.
This "courage and actions" sometimes prominently extend to their social lives. It is not rare that the unique thoughts of the music therapists make them decide and implement extraordinary social actions sometimes hard to understand from the "mature" commonsense dominated by economy and social status. Fragmentally these decisions and actions could be eccentric and even suicidal, but when they gain the connection in an organic way, they impress, spread, and change the people around. Recently I translated "A Journey into Creative Music Therapy," the autobiographical monologue of Dr. Clive Robbins who is one of the greatest figures in the modern music therapy field, and by overlooking his life I was strongly convinced with it. We also know many music therapists around us renovating their living ways with the small steps of "courage and actions," who are very attractive.
Thirdly, I would like to point "logical and communicative capacity" of the proficient music therapists. It means they can organize those practical manners of living and relating to others, as a theoretical concept or a systemized principle which are communicable to others. In other words, the competent music therapists are not those who "have lapsed into" the attitude as a result of in-born tendencies and naïve immaturity. They have created these attitudes along with being matured as a music therapist, or re-chose it, and is consciously living that way. The methods of organization might be varied from intuitive, scientific, to phenomenological, but it is common that the clarity as a speaker can be a sign of the excellence as a therapist.
Now, let us go back to the first two confessions by my colleague. Maybe the three "conditions" I mentioned above might pressure them even worse...? So, once again, I imaged the portraits of the attractive music therapists, and found one more "condition" which might be most helpful to my colleague, that is to say, to the same degree they are great as a therapist, the gravity they gain as an "ordinary person." Each of them is deeply him/herself, and seems to have an ability to "stay as a life-size individual." Needless to say, they are antithetical of the saint-like ambition to dominate and achieve everything, or the arrogance to judge the world reality to create the strong and the weak. Far from it, they do not even project the spirits such as "a music therapist should live like xxx," or "I am committed to help others." Rather, they seem to have learned how to bypass such mistakes of pressuring themselves, consciously or unconsciously. As a result, they live "the ordinary" at ease.
It is not simple as "putting away the mask of helping professional during the off-time to recover the private face." It might be expressed with the word "modesty," but it is not just humiliating him/herself or hiding their true abilities. Excusing him/herself for lack of abilities is out of question. As we all know, self-contempt or artificial modesty has distinctive smells.
Probably, after the many years in the music therapy field, nurturing their vision of "looking at a person with love and courage, interrelating a person musically," they have mastered how to treat themselves in the same way... as if releasing themselves in the same field of their clients and looking at both of them smilingly. This active surrender to the self, which could be called in Japanese "Datsuryoku no waza " (the art of relaxing) might be the most powerful attitude to make human beings alive, self and others.
Ikuno, Rika (2000). Ongakuryouhou - Ongaku to Hito no Furukute Atarashii Deai- (Music therapy – the new and old encounter between music and human being -. AERA Mook Shin-Shinrigaku ga Wakaru [Genba kara]. Asahi Shinbunsha.
Ikuno, Rika (2007). A Portrait of Music Therapist - The Gravity To Keep The Ordinary -. Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy. Retrieved May 16, 2013, from http://testvoices.uib.no/?q=colikuno311207