Synthesis Sunday: A Shift from Trauma-Informed Care? Already?

Trauma-Informed Care and Music Therapy
I am somewhat late to the Trauma-Informed Care (T-IC) philosophy, but it is the significant treatment philosophy being pushed at my facility, especially for those of us who are therapists. We are being encouraged to use the tenets of T-IC in every interaction that we have with students. I am immersing myself in strategy development on how to incorporate the ideas and thoughts of T-IC in my music therapy practice.

One of the things that I have learned is that being a practitioner who is aware of T-IC is that there are no "T-IC" music therapy interventions, per se. The idea of T-IC is to interpret responses through a different lens - remembering that exposure to traumatic experiences changes brain development, so sometimes the behaviors are brain-based rather than deliberate. Just like there is no music that you can prescribe for a specific diagnosis, there is no "one-size fits all" when it comes to working with people.

For my population, T-IC has become the baseline for treatment. We assume that all of our clients have experienced significant trauma and attempt to understand behaviors from a T-IC perspective. We continue to work within and through behaviors displayed by clients, but the ideas of neurological differences and the underlying causes of the differences has shifted the focus away from "bad behavior" to "brain differences." I'm not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing at this point.

I am learning what I can learn about Trauma-Informed Care so I can figure out how to work with my clients through this perspective. I am reading articles, attending training, and am currently getting through my selected text.


I saw a post on Music Therapists Unite about a new perspective. The article, written by Shawn Ginwright, Ph.D., puts forward yet another idea - shifting away from a focus on the trauma to something he calls "Healing Centered Engagement."  I have skimmed the article and find that there are good arguments for shifting our perspective from a focus on trauma to a focus on healing. Others may argue that it is semantics, but I find that focusing on trauma leads me into an overfocus on trauma rather than focusing on the person in front of me.

Ugh. My brain is already hurting.

For the past couple of years, the buzzword around work has been "Trauma-Informed Care." We've all been encouraged and expected to engage our students from this perspective. I've struggled with this concept as, to me, it has seemed to encouraged focus on the trauma rather than on the entire client. I don't usually address trauma in my group treatment sessions. There are many reasons for this, but one of the most important (in my head) is that the client who comes to my facility is not just their experiences - there is a unique being who has experienced trauma but is not confined by that trauma.

So, a focus on "Healing Centered Engagement" strikes a chord with me (pun intended) in music therapy treatment. I am looking forward to reading more about this concept (as I said before, I have only skimmed through the article at this point) to see what is part of this new thought (well, new to me). I know that Dr. Ginwright feels that this approach has to be found in more places than just the treatment session - I like that.

More exploration is needed. 

Off I go, moving further into the worlds of T-IC and "Healing Centered Engagement" to see what options are out there for me, a clinical music therapist working with people in the world. 

Happy Sunday, all!


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