what a little music can do...

>> Sunday, March 20, 2011

i woke up this morning to see that the lovely SelloholicMom featured my ever evolving blog playlist  in her Daily li paper - scroll down to her Arts & Entertainment section! music really does speak to everyone - what started a little collection of new favorites is hopefully making it's way to random iPods.  (hey choirboy, i will be thanking you properly in person when i see you.)

(now if i could only figure out how to pull a screenshot (new toshiba laptop be damned, where the heck is the prt scn key) we'd have a proper graphic for this post.)

funny enough, i just finished reading Jodi Picoult's latest novel, Sing You Home - which tells the story of a music therapist and her journey amidst life's challenges.  while the book is true to Picoult's formulaic template (if you read/saw My Sister's Keeper, you'd know what i'm talking about - engaging characters, courtroom drama, legal jargon, twist at the end) i was more interested in how she describes the way music provides a soundtrack to life and how music therapy - or really, any art-based therapy - works.   it got me thinking about what i was listening to when i was trudging my way through school and how the songs from that time period in my life brings me back to who i was and what i was doing.

15 years ago (yeah, 15. holy cow.  where were YOU 15 years ago?)  i was working on my MA in art therapy in a very small department at a huge metropolitan university.  being the wanna-be goth cheerleader in high school, and the alternative, i-dress-only-in-black fine arts student during my first round at university, it only made sense that my final research master's thesis was going to be about death and dying.  i packed up my art supplies and headed off to the palliative care unit of the hospital i was interning at.

well, that was an eye-opening experience.  quite a blow to my self esteem as well as a definite challenge to my work as a clinician.  as Picoult describes in her book, it is hard to try to convince people that they should be doing something as insignificant as drawing pictures or participating in a resounding version of "the wheels on the bus" while they are struggling with astronomical doses of pain medications (anyone up for a lethal dose of dilaudid with lunch?), saying good bye to their loved ones, and just plain old LIVING.  i worked very closely with a music therapy intern as well and i know that she struggled with the same dilemma.  seriously, the LAST thing i probably would want if i was in the hospital is some know-it-all student coming with her crayolas, wanting me to make a picture.

Picoult effectively outlines the principles of music therapy - which i feel pretty much sums up any creative therapists' work.  even though people might think that it's airy-fairy, bohemian, new age garbage, there are strong roots in psychology and the science of psychotherapy with all the creative therapies.  (i know.  try stumbling your way though Abnormal Psychology 101 and The Fundamentals of the Structure of the Brain)  it's about accompanying someone on their journey, alleviating their pain, giving them an alternative way to "talk", and honouring who they are and where they have come from.  it's about establishing and maintaining the therapeutic relationship, giving someone a safe place to be, to talk, to dream.  i remember covering an elderly cancer patient's room walls with images of her childhood so that she could look at them every day.  i remember drawing pictures with a small child in the waiting room as her family spent their last moments with their loved one.  i remember spending hours with the music therapy student in her music group, giving people the opportunity to forget where they were, just for a moment.
in the years since i graduated, i always seem to find myself incorporating my art therapy background into the work that i do - whether it's running a craft group, designing a logo, using a sketch to help someone work through an issue, or being the artist i think i am in my private life so that i don't get crazy stressed  (the gocco printed notebook to the left is by me!) - and i am thankful for the insights and the experiences that i have had.  the music almost always follows as well - i never run a group without having some music on in the background.  the "soundtrack" of my life also provides a thread that i can follow back to those times, and i can see how the songs i was listening to also helped me.

so don't hesitate to be creative or to take the time to dance to the music in your head.  it's good for you.

that being said, here's a favorite from my school days. (yes, i know i'm treading on vintage territory.  and sorry for the boring youtube video.)


Julie March 20, 2011 at 9:59 AM  

What an amazing post! Thank you for sharing your insight and wonderful experiences!

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