Anxiety/Behavioral/Emotional Difficulties

Developing a Sense of Resilience in an Anxious Teen

 As the 13-year-old tween entered the music therapy room, she continuously, stiffly and politely apologized for every other moment or comment she made. When the therapist played the piano with her, the girl responded with only what she knew, her piano lesson music. The therapist attempted to match and join her playing, but the girl just became stiffer. After chatting a bit and trying a few things, the therapist decided they had better get away from that performance mode.

This was a tender age, and the family had undergone some recent and drastic changes in their living situation, which gave a few more bumps to this already anxious child. The young girl, as she spoke, told the music therapist some of her favorite tunes. After making a small list, the two listened to them together. The young teen began to sing along….she had a beautifully, outstanding voice and this was the first time the girl began to show some true, relaxed emotions as she sang.

Although there was true emotion,  she continued to  apologize for perceived imperfection.  The girl demonstrated comfort only in the known, prewritten tunes that she was familiar with. After some repetitions with this familiar, favorable music she began to demosntrate some ability to relax the anxiety a little. The young girl was starting to slow down her thinking and emerge herself more into the music-making.

The young teen expressed an interest in writing her own tunes. In between the sessions, the therapist scanned her favorite tunes for similarity. She noted the similarities that the tunes shared in common musically. As this information was presented to the teen, she began to look closer at what in the music, resonated with her. The teen was then better able to describe the overall arch of how she wanted the tune to go, taking more control over her own creation.

The therapist put a chord structure together and the girl began to improvise vocally over it, no words,  just vocal tones. This was the first time in all these weeks that she could let go and play creatively. As she became more focused and invested in the creation, the apologizing  decreased. The girl was beginning to give voice to her emotions. The work of building towards hope and resilience had begun.

The therapist listened then acted as her producer, holding the boundary, yet making the space for the teen to reflect and work through anxious emotions. Instead of the stagnant anxious apologizing, this girl was now reflecting, deciding, creating and beginning the journey of moving forward.