Last week’s example of validating through music is vastly different from this week’s. Last week, validation was done at a sensory level, where that child is presently. This week’s examples are initially made at verbal, cognitive, and emotional levels, backed up and made more alive through music. In working with a group of performing teens, all with their own unique needs, the eldest in the group and the newest member has the least security in the group. The group has functioned together weekly for many years. Each member has his or her own strengths which are utilized in a leadership fashion. These strengths are then supported by the rest of the group musically. The newest member has not yet found his leadership role and is trying very hard to find his place. He points out others’ mistakes, corrects, or engages in persistent arguing. His efforts often appear bossy or controlling and are the negative attempts he utilizes. He has not yet learned where or how to fit in and is trying methods with which he is familiar. This is a tricky group. They are all high-functioning and not at all strangers to one another. Several are related. In order to avoid emotional fog created by early baggage and messy boundaries, the musical “playfulness” is essential. As the group was practicing some pre-composed tunes, this boy suggested we insert “oh” at the beginning of a certain phrase. It was musically and linguistically appropriate. I told him it was a great idea, and wrote it in to everyone’s music. His positive efforts will be replayed over and over as the group practices and performs. He was validated verbally, but will experience the results of positive efforts repeatedly.
In another instance, a little five-year-old, a very verbal and imaginative boy, tends to work through issues he cannot fully comprehend due to his age through repeated pretend. In this case, music is used to accompany his pretend, giving a more vivid life to his imagination and also functioning as a container, helping him to slow down enough to fully process his thoughts. As the music began to reflect his pretend, the pull of the ostinato rhythm grabbed him as he began to rock side to side. The constancy of the rhythm helped him to slow down as he pretended and beat a drum. The drumsticks turned into a conductor’s baton. His talking ceased for a bit as his facial expressions portrayed a still vivid functioning imagination while conducting. He began to slow his rocking and then again turned to verbal pretending at a slower rate. Six months ago an older relative of his was taken to a nursing home and passed away. Although this little boy was equipped with the age appropriate facts of what happened, fully comprehending this was not only difficult but a little scary. As the rhythm remained steady and accompanied his play, the music not only enlivened his play but also allowed him to gain better motor control enabling him to process and ask questions. The music resumed as the boy was able to make sense of what happened at his own level. He then, for the first time ever joined the therapist at the piano. The two slowed together as the music ended and the session closed.
Antoinette Morrison MT-BC