My students know that, if I see a client goal starting out stating “Decrease……”, there will probably be a lecture to follow. I make a very big deal to the students about writing goals in the positive. I personally belive that it affects how you see your client and where the emphaisis will be in your sessions. Diminishing symptoms is not working towards growth and healing. The word diminsh means “to make or become less”. Growth is forward, upward movement, the ability to see the potential.
I have often pointed my students towards the movie “The Giver”. Wikipedia states “The novel follows a 12-year-old boy named Jonas. The society has taken away pain and strife by converting to “Sameness”, a plan that has also eradicated emotional depth from their lives. Jonas is selected to inherit the position of Receiver of Memory, the person who stores all the past memories of the time before Sameness, as there may be times where one must draw upon the wisdom gained from history to aid the community’s decision making. Jonas struggles with concepts of all the new emotions and things introduced to him: whether they are inherently good, evil, or in between, and whether it is even possible to have one without the other. The Community lacks any color, memory, climate, or terrain, all in an effort to preserve structure, order, and a true sense of equality beyond personal individuality.”
Similarly, at Back mountain Music Therapy, when clients enter therapy with “behaviors”, we consider that those behaviors communicate something. In other words, they are often clues, peices of the puzzle. Therefore, when a detective needs to solve a mystery, he doesn’t toss out the clues because they dont make sense. Above all, the detective holds onto those clues and investigates.
Without the clues, the mystery remains a mystery, the puzzle remains a mass of unrelatable images. Clues in a mystery, peices of the puzzle are the communicative building blocks that help the detective solve the mystery. The clues, the puzzle peices are parts of the whole picture. Therefore, if you take them out of their context, they make no sense. But when put in the whole, the puzzle is complete, the mystery becomes a story. Diminishing, decreasing, tossing out the clues, the puzzle peices, leaves a broken picture, an untellable story, peices of random information. When the detective becomes halted at the clue, he misses the opportunity to see the whole picture.
Often, “behaviors” are the end product, the result, or the clue, to something that has fallen out of rhythm. They are the key that points to something that has fallen out of structure. “Behaviors” can be the result of a process that has been interupted or frozen. The proof that something that has been disconnected, is unpredictable, dismantled, stunted, or left undeveloped. Sometimes they are part of the discomfort in the growth process. Some of our greatest weaknesses as humans, can also develop to be some of our greatest strengths if we follow and learn to master them.
When the little uncommunicative autistic boy stands up and moves to the rhythm of music during circle time, don’t push him back down. Instead keep observing, see the smile that comes across his face as he is able to attend when he gets the energy he needs to attend by standing. The smile is clue #2: he makes eye contact with the therapist while he moves and attempts to join in. Keep up the steady, predictable energy in the rhythm, encourage that energy, so that little boy can continue to make sense of his world. It is much more important for this boy’s development to attend than to comply to what the children who are typicllay functioning are doing at this moment.
The quiet, demur woman with the TBI comes in and politely smiles breifly. She sits motionless, unkowing what to do, or where to go. She does this to avoid getting upset as she listens and then responds with long chains of nonsense chatter. The client isnt able to respond appropriately yet, but is on her way. The client is listening, attending and has direction. She knows she needs to do something and is trying her best to respond. She is intentionally trying. The client listened, processed and is intentionally trying to respond. She has come a long way. But yes, there is still more to do. Don’t stop, keep working, see her abilities, not her behaviors.
Back Mountain Music Therapy seeks to see the whole person. We take a good look at the “behaviors” to see them as clues. We include them as part of the process. “Behaviors” can be grown into strengths that help the therapist engage the child or client , where the child is at. The clues, the tools are part of the whole. They are part of the complete picture. As Wikipedia says “is it even possible to have one [progress] without the other [“behaviors”]?” If I caught your interest in reference to the classic “The Giver”, I encourage you, during your COVID-19 stay at home movie binge, look and see what happens when we see those differneces as negative. We lose so much.