Thougthful Thursday: It's the Small Things That Really Matter

I had a small triumph yesterday. 

I don't think that anyone else in the room even noticed it, but I used music to calm a very agitated student in one of my sessions. It took some time, it took some deliberate application of music, but you know what? 

It worked.

I used every tool at my disposal - repetitive music, using my voice to replicate the volume of the vocalizations happening, singing reflective statements and redirections, still engaging all of the other students in something therapeutic while this was happening, and embedding specific cues in both the musical phrases and the sung lyrics. By the end of the very turbulent session, the client was sitting quietly and was no longer hitting self or others.

There were six staff members in the room who were completely unaware of what I was doing and how it was working. In fact, they spent most of the time in the room chatting with each other about specific things. (I am going to have to do some training with those specific staff members.) None of them even realized that the music was what changed and shaped the client from mass of screaming and tantrum behaviors to calm demeanor. They just noticed that the behavior ceased and then left me to a more silent room.

In the long term range of things, will that student remember that session and what the music did? Nope. Will the staff members ever understand what is happening with the music? Nope. I know, and that's enough.

This week has been another loud and difficult week for all of us in the music therapy room. Students have refused to do almost everything that I planned during the session. Several have told me that they "hate music class" and a couple have included me in the statements, as in "this is why I hate you." My blood pressure is out of control, for some reason, and I am having related anxiety issues. I'm never sure which comes first - the anxiety or the elevated blood pressure, but they happen at the same time. I'm tired, stressed out, and constantly bombarded by screaming, people hitting my door (which is a lovely percussive sound that echoes in my room), and people making nasty comments about things I have planned and planned for them.

I am going to take about 35% responsibility for what's been happening in my sessions. Well, maybe that should be 72%. No, wait. I can only offer so much. The other people in the session do have to take some responsibility as well. I strive to do my best in every session, every day, and in every way. Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn't.

Anyway, I had a music therapy moment yesterday when my singing and playing helped a client get entrained to an external stimulus and calm without physical intervention.

That is the reason that I continue to do this job. Every so often, the magic of music therapy happens in a way that is not easily ignored...

...and no one notices but me.


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