Recently, my family got a dog from the SPCA. I began to think, a therapy dog might a nice compliment to my therapy business. I decided to take my new dog, Charlie, to a trainer. Upon arrival, the trainer told me he was going to teach me about how I conduct myself with the dog (not teach the dog) so that the dog learns how to behave appropriately. As I was working at a facility this week, I was reminded of this. I had a very high-functioning young girl who previously and frequently had meltdowns just coming in to Music Therapy. There have been some changes at the facility, and this year she has made some fantastic changes in Music Therapy. I try to reflect every good deed I see from her, and that seems to aid in the elicitation of very helpful and complaint behavior. I noticed long ago that the girl has difficulty with authoritarian attitude. She seems very sensitive to it, and although someone with an authoritarian personality may try to do all the right things, this girl is not forgiving towards this kind of attitude. This year she has consistently had good days that were thankfully documented in Music Therapy. As I have watched her deal with people in situations when she melts down, she goes on and on and resolution takes a long time. What seems to me to make the biggest difference is not always the actions of the person dealing with her, but their attitude.
What does this have to do with my dog? I think, like my dog, kids who may not have had what nurtures good development in life may be handling life primitively, from a “fight or flight” stance. When working in therapy, we have to be aware of not only what we say and do, but also of what we are thinking and feeling. Remember, studies say that only 7% of what we communicate comes through our words. Ninety-three percent of communication comes through eyes, stances, body language, facial expression, the relaxed or pursed stance of our lips, the twitching of an eye, or the furrow of a brow. For kids who have prematurely had to protect themselves or monitor or manage emotional imbalance lack a structure or instability, or worse. In order to stay okay, they are already conditioned to watch and therefore must react from a more reactive and primitive state of being.
Those of us who regularly deal with these kids need to be functioning from a much more advanced place. Unfortunately, no matter what our degree is, or how may letters follow our name, there is nothing else but ourselves that monitors this condition. In order to do good productive work, we also have to be aware of what is going on inside of ourselves. It is a very important part of the job.
Antoinette Morrison, MT-BC