Synthesis Sunday: Trauma-Informed Care Trainer Certification and Writings on Trauma and Music Therapy

It is time to start a new book for Synthesis Sunday. After mulling things over, I've decided to use my Sunday readings for two purposes - first, to read and share something that I find interesting and important (I hope), and second, to work on a course that I want to offer. To that end, I introduce to you Synthesis Sundays centered around trauma-informed care and music therapy!

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I have my textbook, Music, Music Therapy and Trauma: International Perspectives, and I have my notes from my facilitator training. I have my notebook, and my ever faithful assistant who is ready and willing to sit on top of materials, to hit the pen as I take notes, and generally comment on my writing process right near by. It is time to start.

First, a bit of background about why this topic at this time. 

I work with children and adolescents who have significant trauma histories that have led to the development of antisocial behaviors and responses which make education and safe community participation very difficult. In the past several years, our focus has turned towards understanding the effect of traumatic experiences to help us be aware of why we get certain responses to treatment. This idea is not one that is catching on quickly in the rank and file, but I've been interested in this topic for a very long time, so I am taking hold of this idea and trying to make it part of my philosophy of treatment.

Last November, I arranged for professional days centered around the American Music Therapy Association National Conference. I took the two days between the conference and Thanksgiving off as well. Shortly after I made the request, I found an advertisement for a workshop to become a Trauma-Informed Care trainer that was to be held on those two days. I took a gulp, wrote a BIG check, and got ready for conference. The day after conference, I drove into downtown Kansas City, and started my training; 48 hours later, I was a certified trainer.

When I was at conference, I purchased this book at the Jessica Kingsley booth in the exhibit hall. I knew I was going to be attending the certification training, so I decided this would be my textbook purchase for the conference. I've resisted the temptation to start reading it until now. I wanted to finish up Mercedes Pavlicevic's book before delving into this thought process. I also wanted the certification before thinking more deeply about T-IC and music therapy.

It is time to get started.

Now, to the beginning of the text.

The introduction of the text offers some context for why the book came about. Published in 2002, the editor and many of the authors come from Northern Ireland, a country where traumatic events were (and may still be) prevalent. The editor, Julie P. Sutton, won an award that supported the authorship of the book. The text, however, does not have a Northern Ireland perspective only - music therapists, music researchers, and other professionals with interests in music contributed opinions and descriptions of trauma-informed care from around many places of conflict and traumatizing events. The last bit of the book discusses the traumatic events that many therapists bring into treatment and focuses on how to work in and through personal and vicarious traumas.

As I get ready to work through this text and this project, there are several things that I have to keep in mind. First of all, trauma-informed care (T-IC) is not a treatment format. There are no established "right" therapeutic music experiences (TME) to prescribe to the client. T-IC is a perspective - a way of interacting with people within a greater treatment modality. Becoming a more T-IC focused practitioner has been a struggle for me, but I think I have been able to find more patience and understanding of setting events when I'm working with my clients. We shall see as I go deeper into this perspective.

Secondly, self-awareness and self-care is important to focus on while working from this perspective. I've experienced some vicarious trauma before while learning about all of this, so I know that I will need to be proactive during this exploration. I will walk away from this project and reading when I need to do so. There will be times when I just cannot work on this project - when things will feel too real for me to process. At those times, I will do something else on my Sundays.

Lastly, this project has a greater goal than simply being a book review - I want to turn it into a continuing music therapy education course, so I am reading to not only learn but to teach. I hope that what I write will make sense (or about as much sense as any of my writing), but there may be things missing from the blog posts that come up in the course outlines.

At the end of this series of posts, I hope that I have a greater understanding of how trauma affects the brain, the body, and the interactions of humans. I hope that I can identify situations within my own clinical practice and experience that have these elements and to see if I can gain greater insights into how my clients interact and respond to music and to music therapy. I also hope that I continue to be challenged by this perspective as I use it in my therapy sessions.

Time to get started.



Pendelton, R., & Dalton, A. (2017). Workshop facilitation training: Trauma Informed Care. Kansas City, MO: Truman Medical Center, Center for Trauma-Informed Innovation.

Sutton, J. P. (Ed.). (2002). Music, music therapy and trauma: International perspectives. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

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