Throughout the years, many of my music therapy clients have been psychologists who work primarily in the verbal therapies. My work with one of these psychologists was documented as a case study in Ken Bruscia's book Case Studies in Music Therapy. (Kenny, 1991). Many of these clients come to music therapy because they want to expand their repertoire of receptivity and expressivity. They sometimes complain that both in their own growth and in their professional practice, using "only words" is not "enough".
Recently, one of my clients has been going through a dramatic growth period in her life. And, as is often the case, this growth comes about through dramatic conflicts in her life circumstances. These conflicts require that she embodies a newly-found confidence that she first recognized in her musical improvisations at the piano. Some of the qualities she heard in her improvisations over the last year have been creativity, boldness, confidence, clear sense of direction, playfulness, all qualities that she did not perceive as being a part of her identity prior to "hearing" them in the music. Her impressions and her experience do so much to confirm the sense that music therapists often have, that music can be a prelude to change, a kind of precognition.
This client is a woman who tries to stay in her verbiage because she feels safe there. In her case, the safety of the verbiage also represents a kind of disassociation from her body and her emotions. So, coming into the music, and sometimes the movement and art that I often include in sessions, means that she is getting to know herself in a different and more expanded way. It also means that she is fulfilling her goal of becoming more expressive. She perceives new possibilities.
And now, in recent days, she is applying these newly recognized qualities to her concrete life circumstances, taking "bold" and "confident" actions to change her life, and the life of her child, for the better.
These changes meant that she had to travel for a few weeks. When she called me for a check-in, from a distance, I was struck by her comment: "I can't wait to get back to the music." Could the music be a type of food that she needed to keep replenishing her while she was in the middle of these conflicts, these actions that would change her life forever? Perhaps the music was a way to remind her of her newly recognized qualities and she needed reminding. So, I told her to "remember" the sound of the music, the feeling of playing, the goodness and strength and believability of the experience in the music.
There is a new discipline emerging in academia, having its origins in attachment and trauma theories. My client is a doctoral student in such a program. At the Santa Barbara Graduate Institute (www.sbgi.edu), doctoral degrees are offered in Pre and Perinatal Psychology and Somatic Psychology. My client is dedicated to being integral by bringing her own personal growth into accord with the practices she will perform as a therapist.
Could it be that a new place is emerging for music therapy, dance therapy, art therapy, and poetry therapy, that is revealed in these programs? Certainly, we are learning that the body, the senses, the emotions are so much more important in development than the standard literature on human growth and development reveals. Now, with new discoveries in neuroscience, it is apparent that nature and nurture work together more closely than we had ever imagined.
We have seen the exploration of the theories of Daniel Stern, whose work contributes to the new body of knowledge, in our music therapy literature. And it is easy to access Daniel Stern because he is also interested in music therapy. However, in the works of Allan Schore(2003, 1994), Antonio Damasio (1999), Daniel Siegel (2003), Thomas Verny(2003), Peter Levine and many others, we see that this is a vast territory, growing every day, that confirms the relationships between nature and nurture, the critical importance of early development, the dramatic effects of trauma.
Music has a place in this growing body of theory and practice. And it is reflected in the anticipation of my client, who had the natural impulse to "get back into the music" for her own growth and health.
In California, we are all very sad that our new governor, Arnold Schwartzenegger, has decided to aggressively lobby to take music and art therapies away from all of our developmentally disabled children. We are sending faxes and letters and e-mails to all of our government representatives to advocate for the special needs children who have been benefiting from music therapy for so many years. It's discouraging to have the political powers so easily dismiss all of the research, all of the improvements in the quality of life, all of the systems that serve these children.
But there may be a new wave forming out there in the sea, one that will provide us with the knowledge we need to once and for all, bring the arts fully into our lives as a constant in the name of decent and responsible care for the human body, heart and soul. We can only hope for that.
Damasio, Antonio (1999). The Feeling of What Happens: Body, Emotion and the Making of Consciousness. London: Willliam Heinemann.
Kenny, Carolyn (1991). The use of Musical Space With an Adult in Psychotherapy. In. K. Bruscia, Case Studies in Music Therapy. Phoenixville, PA: Barcelona Publishers.
Levine, Peter (A. (1997). Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books.
Schore, Allan (2003). Affect Dysregulation and Disorders of the Self. New York: W.W. Norton Publishers.
Schore, Allan (1994). Affect Regulation and the Repair of the Self: The Neurobiology of Emotional Development. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Siegel, DDaniel (2003). Healing Trauma: Attachment, Mind, Body, and Brain. New York: Norton W.W. and Company.
Verny, Thomas (2003). Tomorrow's Baby: The Art and Science of Parenting From Conception Through Infancy. New York: Simon and Schuster Books.
Verny, Thomas & Weintraum, Pamela (2003). Nurturing the Unborn Child. Kinston, RI: Ohlmstead Press.
Kenny, Carolyn (2004) "Get Me Back to the Music". Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy. Retrieved May 16, 2013, from http://testvoices.uib.no/?q=fortnightly-columns/2004-get-me-back-music