Going Through to the Other Side

Most all the time the clients that come to my studio are excited to come, smiling as they enter, and often run down the hallway to the Music Therapy room. I like the facilitation of development to occur naturally, unstressed, and to flow ahead. However, there are times whens smiling, excited faces don’t happen, when there is crying and anger. As unpleasant as these emotions may seem, they can be as healthy and beneficial in the therapy as the prior emotions.

It is not unusual when I work with nonverbal children that when understanding and communication begin, there is not yet enough to satiate the desire to be specific, and frustration occurs. Of course, more gains take time, and sometimes the frustration of not being able to fuels the progress. However, on the way to gaining more the desire is there, but there is not enough skill, and frustration and tantrums occur because others aren’t “getting it.” The frustration is due to the gains that have been made and the desire for more that has not come quick enough. Development is still occurring in the proper direction.

Every now and then with more verbal clients, I have seen something a little different in their behavior, or sometimes nothing at all, and although I am not looking for or trying to get at any deep issues, they spring forth. Most often they are not happy issues, but are issues that have been suppressed for one reason or another. Of course, if the emotion behind it is negative, so is the behavior that follows. Why is this healthy? Usually, the aim of the session is to free the individual to initiate, take a leadership role, free creativity, or handicap inhibitions. In order to gain the freedom, sometimes one has to let go of what holds one back.  Facing negative emotions and letting them go, although the result is freedom, can be a difficult or unpleasant process. It is good and healthy for these emotions and issues to occur in a trusting relationship. The therapeutic relationship provides space, safety, and facilitates a healthy direction to unpleasant situations. The music in these cases often aids in bringing the issues forward in a healthy release or paves a pathway for discussion of emotions or issues, or sometimes possibly finding new ways to deal with issues. It is important, therefore, to go through it, to get to the other side, to not stop when the faces are not smiling for the moment. Go through the situation to find a smiling expression that is fully free.

Antoinette Morrison, MT-BC


Bobbi Adler, MT-BC

Hi, Antoinette. Thanks so much for posting this beautiful description of the needs of nonverbal people. Although I work with adults, their challenges are of course the same; and their accumulation of negative life experiences and inability to express themselves does lead to outbursts in a few of my profoundly multiply impaired clients.

I see this in my dementia clients as well.

Once in a SNF I had a nonverbal lady, a stroke victim, who spoke only with her eyes. In the corner of her room (for some reason??) was an electric typewriter. No one could tell me why it was there. I found an extension cord, placed it within her reach, and watched, stunned, as one of her index fingers typed: i am hngry (she missed the “u”. I took the paper to the nurse’s station. The charge nurse’s facial expression changed dramatically. She called the doctor and had the IV feeding increased immediately.

Someone was home all the time.


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