Sunday, August 9, 2015


Before this trip the word EMPOWERMENT was never on my radar. Oxford dictionary defines empowerment as “to give [someone] the authority or power to do something; to make [someone] stronger or more confident, especially in controlling their life and claiming their rights.” Although we cannot give empowerment, we can facilitate and help guide others to feel it. Through the clinical work we have done in Thailand, we strived to achieve empowerment in every session. The first thing I had to understand about this word is that empowerment is universal; the first step to is to make the client feel safe and comfortable. I also discovered that with empowerment, we see the best outcomes within our sessions. Empowerment has a positive affect on adaptation, therapeutic relationship, and the progress the client makes towards their goals. When these things are positively affected, a secure and nurturing environment is created. 
Just like in the states, we receive feedback after every session. Through all of this feedback, the reoccurring theme was to continue to increase empowerment. So why is this idea of empowerment so important in music therapy? A quote by Wayne Dyer states “people who feel empowered by your presence become kindred spirits. That can only happen if they feel safe rather than attacked, secure rather than judged, calm rather than harassed.” This is what our goal should be as a therapist. Yes, every client has an individualized goal to work toward, but without the therapist empowering the client, they may not reach the goal to their fullest capability. This idea is reiterated in the AMTA Scope of Practice, which states that we must practice client-centered care. (to see more click here). Empowerment isn’t simply a specific emotion or attitude. When you empower others as a therapist, you feel the empowerment in return; in a session, this can have a positive affect on your observation, musical skill, and adaption.  This principle applies directly to music therapy, but also to everyday life. When someone feels comfortable and safe enough to show you who they truly are, the interaction becomes much more positive, trusting, and genuine. The training we receive is necessary in order to reach our full capabilities as a therapist, but when you factor empowerment into the equation the entire tone of the session shifts. We become more observant, more adaptive, and see more results within our documentation.

Music therapists have a lot to keep in mind when it comes to the importance of research, documentation, professionalism, therapeutic presence, musical skill, and adaptation. These are all aspects of music therapy that we cover in-depth throughout our training. When the energy of empowerment for yourself is added, a whole new element is added to each of these categories.  The documentation becomes smoother, the observations become more clear, your adaptations become more natural, and research becomes more meaningful. Not only does the client need to be empowered, but so does the therapist in order for the client to receive the best care possible. 

So what does empowerment effect? Everything. Empowerment is prominent in music therapy, but also in daily life; it is a necessary component in every friendship, family dynamic, work environment, and passing interaction. Empowering others creates empowerment for yourself. Thailand has taught me the genuine importance of the word empowerment, and I am excited to incorporate this concept into my daily life back at home. 

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