I received my first presentation rejection letter for the season this week.

It was for a Make and Take CMTE to be offered at AMTA. They never go for this type of session, but I think it would be something well attended. Oh well. I'll keep the idea for myself and figure out a way to offer this idea to interested music therapists in other venues.

This is not the first time that I've experienced rejection - I've experienced rejection in school programs, in presentation proposals, in friendships. It seems to happen all the time. When one rejection happens, all the others come flooding back. It always takes me some cognitive reframing to remember that rejection is a completely normal way of life and that things will be fine.

I experience rejection in my clinical life as well.

Music therapy is not a service that my students choose. The way things are set up at my facility state that all students will attend music therapy every week. They have to arrive at my room, but I do not force anyone to engage. (My staff members, on the other hand, are more into insisting that my students participate - I am working on teaching them to respect choice.)

When you offer choice, rejection is a possible answer at all times.

New students are often the most vocal with their rejection, but it happens all the times with my clients. Sometimes the rejection is obvious and blatant. "I HATE music. I'm not going in there!" Sometimes it is more subtle. "I'm going to pretend that MJ doesn't exist as I turn my back on her." Sometimes it is manifested in inappropriate engagement. "I feel threatened, so I am going to disrupt everything that MJ tries."

I've had a series of rejections this week, but I've also had a series of students who are FINALLY engaging in music therapy as well.

That's the thing about choice. There are two outcomes - engagement or rejection - but when choice is offered, the client becomes empowered to choose his or her own path - into therapy, into music, into relationship with others. Without that choice, I believe that therapy cannot happen.

I came up with a phrase (or mantra or reminder for myself and others) that really strikes a chord with me concerning this thought.
In music therapy... Choice is respected. Manners are expected.
Silly little phrases, but important to my treatment philosophy and what I want the staff members who come into music therapy to embody as well.

I really do not care if a clients chooses not to engage in a therapeutic music experience. I had experiences in my education that I would have LOVED not to have had to engage in - Presidential Physical Fitness testing immediately springs to mind. Not everyone enjoys music. Many of my students have had very unsuccessful music education experiences in their former schooling. That becomes very evident when they start screaming as soon as they hear the words, "It's time for music," and have not met me yet or even attended a session. Those are the students who often become my greatest advocates! Once they realize that what I do in my music therapy class is very much different from what they didn't understand in their other music classes, they make positive statements, ask me what we're doing in sessions, and tell others that "music here is SO different from other music classes. It's fun!"

Rejection always has a root. There is always a reason for rejection. Many times, that reason is not explained to the person being left. I have to investigate the reasons that my clients sometimes show such strong responses and reactions to the word "music." They don't tell me those things - I have to figure it out. The reasons for the rejection also often change. One day rejection may come because of a physical reaction - another day may have rejection coming from boredom. Without inhabiting the other person, no one may truly know why rejection happens.

I'm going to continue to offer my interests and presentation ideas to the music therapy world. I will continue to be rejected, but I will also be accepted at times.

I had one stubborn client finally start to initiate interaction with me this week. This client had spent much of the time making almost derogatory remarks about me personally (before the client had even seen me) and constantly mumbled about the uselessness of music classes. This week, the client engaged without complaint and even contributed to our session! (My Never Have I Ever TME (available for purchase) has been a HUGE success!! I think I'll add it into sing about fun and games since it has been received so well. We shared so much with each other through that TME.) The best thing - personal interaction with me initiated by the client for the very first time! I can build on that first level. This relationship may be slow to develop, but it will develop!

This one success happened in a week where two clients scratched my arms trying to communicate something to me and another decided that a 55-minute tantrum would be the way to avoid doing what I asked (to sit quietly in one place for 20 seconds). (By the way - the client eventually did what I asked!)

When rejection happens (and it will), it is important to remember that there is acceptance happening as well. Three clients struggled - that means that 112 students did well in music therapy sessions this week. Often, in the face of rejection, acceptance is overlooked. I'm trying to remember that fact as I move into my world. 

Here's my cognitive reframing for this particular rejection from AMTA - I was volunteering a skill set that others seem to find valuable to an organization that I believe in. They chose not to take that gift. There are others who are offering skill development that AMTA believes will be more rewarding for other music therapists. That is fine. I can offer other opportunities through other venues and topics. This rejection means that I can work on other projects.

I am now waiting for the next round of AMTA rejections, but maybe there will be an AMTA acceptance or two in there as well. We'll see! 


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