This blog is an account of student experiences as part of a music therapy study abroad program offered through the University of Kansas, posted over the course of their trip and immediately following the trip. From June 30-August 5, 2015, twelve music therapy students from three different universities are collaborating with the music therapy program at Mahidol University College of Music to provide music therapy services in and around the Bangkok area. Follow their adventures here.
Friday, July 31, 2015
In our music therapy courses, the concept of
client-centered care is emphasized;they
choose the music, directional aspects within the sessions, and even their goals
and objectives if they are capable. It’s even in our Scope
of Music Therapy Practice, which states, “A
music therapist is respectful of, and responsive to the needs, values, and
preferences of the client and the family. The music therapist involves the
client in the treatment planning process, when appropriate.” However, the
concept of client-centered care goes deeper than the definition, which I never
fully understood until this trip. This is funny, because if you had asked me
before, I would have told you it was a conceptI
incorporated into both my personal and professional lives.
Some of the leaders during the session with the children.
Coming away from our
first week of sessions in Thailand, everything I had to say was self-focused.
Thoughts like “my voice was flat” or “I should have physically engaged with
that client more” or “I don’t think my client likes me because he’s smiling
less than the others” were flying across my mind. It was an amplification of
all of my insecurities from practicum experiences, and it freaked me out! The
next sessions were better; the clients were more comfortable with us and we
felt more comfortable creating a plan for clients we already met, but something
still hadn’t clicked.
Oddly enough, everything
finally came together for me while I was observing
a session at Sirindhorn National Medical Rehabilitation Center. Four other
students led a session with a group of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder
and Cerebral Palsy. However, due to the nature of the session, all of the
observers were directly interacting with the clients. Before that I had minimal
experience with children with developmental disabilities, so I’m very cautious
while interacting with them. When we sat down for this session I was next to a
small boy with CP, his mother, and his attendant. (For a better view of CP,
click here) The
boy seemed overwhelmed, so I sat back and tried to passively engage without
overstimulating him. For the first half of the session the negative
self-deprecating thoughts had returned, so instead of focusing on the client in
front of me, I spent most of my energy on quieting the self-critiques within my
own head. Meanwhile, my client was trying to adjust to the group, looking
around with wide eyes and not participating to his fullest ability (according
to his mother). Soon, one of the session leaders motioned for me to scoot and face
the client, and with that I began to interact more directly.
Halfway through the
session, we sang a song that required motions above the clients’ ability level.
I was trying–and failing–to adapt the motions for him, but when the leader
began to count, a large grin came across his face—that’s when it all changed
for the client and myself. He loved to count! His smile was a small victory, which
immediately quieted my thoughts. It became easier to adapt movements and he
began to smile and engage more. His grandparents joined the session as well,
and from that point on he didn’t stop smiling and continued to improve
physically and emotionally! It felt like the session flew by when in reality the
session was an hour and a half. In all honesty, I couldn’t tell you what any of
the other clients did past the moment when he smiled. After the session ended,
a few of the other therapistsmentioned that he spent the
entire last session crying, screaming, and acting aversive to treatment.
Watching him in that session, you would have NO IDEA that he was so distraught
That connection was special—I haven’t felt
anything similar in my two previous semesters of practicum. After processing, I
concluded that the shift in the session occurred when I allowed myself to be
vulnerable. As therapists, we expect clients be vulnerable with us, but during
that session, it hit me that we can’t expect them to do that unless we allow ourselves
to be vulnerable, too. When both parties are vulnerable, they can meet on
common ground and have more genuine interactions!
So many smiles!
terminology states that as music therapists, we practice client-centered care.
But now, I will think of it as a client-centered connection; two people meeting
in a shared environment to grow off of the energy each person is bringing. When
we are able to do so, the results for both parties are spectacular…the focus
stays on the clients, but both parties reap the benefits.