Saturday, July 25, 2015


Last summer I had the wonderful opportunity of traveling to Jamaica with the Jamaica Field Service Project to do music therapy work in a homeless shelter, infirmary, and school for children with special needs. I didn’t begin clinical work until the next semester, so that trip was full learning how to facilitate sessions, work with clients, work with other student therapists, and observe how other people work with clients. It was a fantastic learning experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything. I learned much more about the field and myself as a music therapist in ten days than I thought was possible.
This trip is different. Now, I am much more familiar with the profession and I have a greater understanding of how to work with clients after a year of clinical experience. But my greatest struggle has been FEAR. That fear comes from a lot of different places, but most of it stems from cultural differences. I do not speak Thai. I do not know Thai customs. I do not know a plethora of Thai songs. I do not, therefore, feel qualified to lead a Thai music therapy session.
But guess what! I DON’T HAVE A CHOICE! I have to help lead sessions! (Which I really am grateful for. My fear has just clouded my gratitude a few times…)
The first two sessions I participated in were with older adults (one in a hospital and one in a rehabilitation center). This past year I worked in two different clinical settings with older adults, so going in I thought, “This will be a piece of cake!” Then, the sessions started. The Thai students were speaking Thai. They sang songs in Thai that I did not know. And I realized I did not know what was appropriate or not appropriate for a music therapy session with Thai older adults. MY FEAR HAD ARRIVED. And what did I do? I let it overcome me. I sat there, didn’t take a risk, and used none of the knowledge I had from the past year.
Then came the day for my individual clinical setting with a teenager diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders at the rehabilitation center. Before going in, I thought to myself “Haley, you need to place those fears aside and trust yourself.” (I repeated this multiple times throughout the session as well…) Dr. Register had mentioned many times that music is not just about the words—speaking Thai is not critical, because wonderful things can happen using music with English, Thai, or no words at all. Of course, this is much easier to hear and much harder to fully accept, but I went into the session ready to give it my best. At one point in the session, I took a risk. I decided to ignore my fears and choose an intervention I thought might be effective for the client. AND IT WORKED. I didn’t need to speak Thai! The session was a success not just because I jumped over that hurdle, but also because the client was engaged throughout the session. Her entire demeanor had changed and positive interactions were made.
Since then, we have had many class discussions on the topic of fear. Fear can be crippling, but by overcoming a fear, we can become empowered by that experience! That is the same for our clients as well. Many of the clients I will work with will also have fears, so it is my job to help them overcome them and leave empowered and motivated.
While dwelling on the thought of fear, I found this perfect quote: “Don’t let your fear of what could happen make nothing happen” –Doe Zantamata
Like so many of the other life lessons I have learned on this trip, it doesn’t just apply to my life in Thailand, but also to my life back in the States. Soon, I will be back in America where I can speak English with most people I encounter. I will be familiar with the customs. And I can sing a lot more songs. But fear will never fully go away; it will just present itself in different forms. It is my job, then, to overcome that fear and accomplish what I might not think is possible.

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