Over the many years of working with individuals in Music Therapy, I have had guardians bring up similar topics. Numerous times I have had guardians concerned about behaviors or self-diagnosed “regression” by watching a particular behavior.
We need to pause a second. Let’s change our perspective at a moment. Let’s look at where the client is in the growth process. Look at the behavior in context. The theme: “growth can be uncomfortable”. I have used this sentence lately quite often, even in recent blogs. Let’s consider some things about the growth process:
1. Growth is new. Typically, growth experiences are places we haven’t been. In the process, we enter an area we haven’t navigated yet. Therefore, the next step is not predictable. We don’t know what to expect.
2. Non-predictable situations often cause anxiety. We don’t know what to expect. Very few people look at “unpredictable” as an adventure. We typically go into the “unexpected” with caution. We often wait for familiar to appear, so we re-use a response that already feels “safe”.
3. When “the familiar” doesn’t appear, then the “response” is another unknown.
4. When we enter the unknown, what takes place may be very different than what we expect. We tend to take a somewhat negative outlook on unexpected outcomes at first glance.
5. Growth is rarely a nice, smooth incline. It often includes bumps and dips. Sometimes, it’s those most uncomfortable “bumps” that propel us to the most growth.
6. People tend to remain in negative, repetitive situations. It is a well-documented fact. This happens because moving towards more unknown positive ones because repetitive is predictable and familiar.
7. When we finally do move forward, it is unknown, unfamiliar, uncomfortable, and often awkward.
Below are some examples that appeared to others as “regression.” Following is their direction towards growth:
● The “Regression”: The non-verbal 5,8, or 10-year-old begins to mouth items.
The growth: The child finally senses their mouth. The child desires to feed this sensation in order to learn how to use this newly emerging sensation.
. ● The “Regression”: The calm, quiet, adult who has sustained a TBI, has now become overly animated. They demonstrate a lack of inhibition, dysregulation in their behavior.
The growth: The client has moved towards more alertness. They are more awake to their environment. However, the individual has not yet gained self-regulation over the responses to that.
● The “Regression”: The adult with a TBI or ABI that is displaying what appears to be some depressive symptoms.
The growth: The client has begun to regain some awareness. The individual is also now more aware of their own hurdles. Now, work can begin with intention towards these hurdles.
● The “Regression”: The ASD client is starting to cry in therapy.
The growth: The awareness of the interaction with another (over the prior isolation) is new. The client responds emotionally to how this feels, being in joint interaction, safely, with someone else.
● The “Regression”: The quiet, perfectionistic, academically, “A” teen gets a “C.”
The growth: Social relationships have now become more important than gaining “approval”. Gaining approval is less important than learning how to “relate.”
● The “Regression”: The ASD teen who could musically replicate any music heard, now isn’t as astute at that.
The growth: The teen has moved away from isolated, self-absorption in the sound. The teen is now “playing’ and engaging in “joint play” with another. The self-absorbed, isolated replication is no longer the peak interest.
I think it is important that we look at the direction and not the behavior in isolation of itself. Of course, we don’t ultimately want:
“C’s over A’s”
“Loss of skills”
We have to keep working. The process nor is the growth, done. The client is still going through the awkwardness of growth. It is not something they have done before. We shouldn’t focus solely on stopping them, we need to keep them moving forward. Often as our clients give up something, they stumble as they climb. We all do. Perfection is an unrealistic and unhealthy expectation. The desire to do better is different, and a very good direction on the compass.
Maybe we can begin to look at the current awkward situation we are in. If we alter our perspective to seeing it as a direction. Sometimes, when you are at the bottom, looking upward can be overwhelming. But at this point, growth towards health is the only direction to go
Antoinette Morrison MT-BC
Antoinette Morrison MT-BC