Last week, I wrote about listening in order to figure out the information that either we have not been given concerning the children we work with or finding the clues that we need to progress (https://backmountainmusictherapy.com/2012/08/what-to-do-with-missing-pieces/). Someone asked me if I thought that was a skill one could develop, or if it came from years of experience in working. Like anything else, some people are much more perceptive than others. and yes, years of practicing anything makes you better. I do, however, think that there are several direct steps one can take to develop this skill.
In the world of multi-tasking, deadlines, result orientation, and evidence based research, we are all looking for the results, progress, and tracking the numbers. In the pressure to do this, we may be missing key evidence or clues we did not even consider that make a big difference. How do we find these clues? They are quite often right before us. But how do we see them?
STEP 1: TAKE A BREATH – Having a clear mind helps. Even in my private practice, I have to slow down my life and make sure I give prep time for my mind. If I go from one thing to the next, I actually end up taking twice as much time in the long run to do a good job. I give myself time to look over the notes from the previous session and remember what happened last. This takes ten minutes, tops. In facilities where it is beyond your control, you see clients back to back – a shorter, more focused session is still more productive than “time put in.” Take a breath before entering the room, clear your mind for your client. Fight the urge to take on more than you can. The most productive person is not always the one with the most clients, it’s the one with the best results. Parents, when you are with your children, sometimes just watch. Do this especially when you are feeling the most frustrated. Step back from the frustration and just watch.
STEP 2: TAKE NOTES – If you absolutely have to, shorten your session to write down a quick reflective note. This is also part of your focused work; it is time dedicated to your client. It will save you time in the long run. Like anything else, starting this process takes the longest. Parents, when you see things that you feel are significant, but really don’t know why, make a note someplace. Keep that notebook in a safe place. Write it down, and over time you may have what you need in order to give helpful insights to others working with your child. This gives evidence, not opinions.
STEP 3: MAKE A VIDEO OR AUDIO OF YOUR SESSION (Get written permission first) – I do not view all my videos, seeing as there truly is not enough time. When I cannot figure things out, get stuck in a rut, or when those unforeseen things happen right after a session when note taking is not possible, a video is a great tool. Often times, I noticed things on my video as an observer that I did not pick up on in my sessions. It is a wonderful “nudge” tool when I feel lost and wondering with a client. It is also a great tool to have on hand when asked for progress over time. There is nothing like a visual to testify to results.
STEP 4: KEEP HELPFUL RESOURCES CLOSE BY – This could mean professionals, friends, books to consult, or helpful websites. I have two resource books right at my desk. When unsure of what is going on, I get out my books, and they almost always help give me direction. Often, clues I noticed and felt were significant (and did not know why at the time but wrote down anyway) are put together here. The resources help me to put the clues and pieces together and make sense of them. Parents, keep supportive friends and insightful professionals close to your side. Consult them often. Let them help support you.
STEP 5: GIVE YOUR MIND QUIET TIME – Make sure you give yourself uncluttered quiet time when doing paperwork. DO NOT MULTITASK. Paperwork time is often time when epiphany happens. Clues are strung together and begin to form a map. As much as I dread the hours of my end of the month paperwork, it does become refreshing as things start to make sense. When I begin the new month, having added up the clues, percentages, numbers, and consulted my resources, I feel like I know where I am at and what I need to do, but most importantly, where my client is. When I walk in that way (even if my assumptions are wrong), the sessions seem to direct themselves effortlessly.
STEP 6: SURROUND YOURSELF WITH POSITIVE LIKE-MINDED PEOPLE AND CONSULT THEM OFTEN – People who support your thoughts help keep your mind open to what is really happening and where it is going. Those who do not support you close your mind as you tell yourself “no, can’t be.” This eventually leads to frustration for you and your client or child.
STEP 7: LET YOUR CLIENT/CHILD DO THE WORK – Watch, watch, watch, and listen, listen, listen. The most “uncommunicative” client is constantly telling you what works and what doesn’t by his or her behavior. Remember the quote from one of my earliest blogs, “All Behavior is Communication.” https://backmountainmusictherapy.com/2011/11/treatment-of-autism/
STEP 8: TAKE A BREAK – Take a break to go back and take a look at those “unproductive” sessions. Looking back by reflecting or watching a video may show you things you never noticed in the session. I will go into a session often with expectations. When those expectations do not happen, my mind becomes closed to reality, to what direction my client is taking. It is the client’s direction – not mine.
STEP 9: When you feel things are significant, but don’t know why, write it down. It may make sense later, hindsight is 20/20.
STEP 10: FOLLOW “GRANDMA’S RULE” – Do what you need to do, then do what you want to do. Procrastination clutters the mind. Parents, on the other hand, it is good for you to just step back and have some fun with your child. Professionals do not spend most of your time with your child; you do.
STEP 11: GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK – No one takes a direct path upward without a break, a little slide back, a meltdown, or everyday life just butting in. Remember, your clients are individual people too. Some can move faster than others, some take more time than others, and bad days happen to us all. Be patient with your client (child), be patient with yourself. Quiet times in therapy are as necessary to the therapy as sleep is to daily life.