Trust, Respect Resistance, But Persist Towards Growth – Part II


Trust requires predictability and familiarity, things we know we can count on. First focus on Trust. In order for any therapy to be effective, there must be a high level of trust established. We need to listen to our clients. Listen with our ears and our eyes and exclude judgement and comparison.How do we do this with the music?

First , lets begin with the client that runs around the room with a big smile. He dmonstrates joyful engagement in the musical play. The engagement however, is breif. The running and his response to the therapist, the play, or the music is quick, breif, and exciteable.

The interaction tells us about the preferred enviornment. The quick tempo or pace of the music establishes the sense of exciteability. The smile accompanying the energy with which he moves, relays information about his preferences as the music continues this way. His breif interactions relays how long he can hold a thought wihtout becoming distracted.

This provides enough information to compose his musical playroom immediately. The “theme” must have a fairly quick tempo and very little empty space. The therapy begins with what draws the client’s attention. The musical blueprint for the aural playroom has been drawn. This bright, quick melody will be the client’s musical home.

This musical home is predictable, repeatable and comfortable. This predictability and repetition helps to establish a sense of safety. This is where the client can safely return.This relationship material will aid in the growth later.

In order for the client to choose growth, the client will need to have a sense of safety in order to venture into new arenas of development. The music will remain recognizeable and predictable. Later, however, in order to work towards growth, the theme will need altering. These slight alterations will take into account the client’s strengths (what pulls him towards the play) and needs (the areas that require development). But not now, we need to establish trust first.

Our second client is an adult. This client enters relaying that she likes meditative, ambient types of music. Therefore, we begin with open sounds and only minimal movement in the music. The musical relationship material is where the client can engage. This is where the client feels comfortable, so this is where to begin. These elements help keep her attention. This draws the client towards the interaction.

Our final client is very inhibitive and is uneasy about sharing his musical preferences. This client will only interact , or even relay to the therapist, one familiar known song. We will start by simplifying and utilizing the most relatable, most familiar part of the song. The chorus can be our “aural playroom”. So lets dive deeper and translate.

All 3 situations inform the therapist where the starting point is for each client. Each client is unique with differeing prefernces and lots of information to begin with. The first client’s musical preference relays that the enviornment (the music) is short, fast, possibly a little louder and full, keeping his attention. This draws the client towards interaction.

The second client demonstrates that she functions in an enviornment (the music) with less involvement. The enviornment can’t move to fast. The aural playroom needs to be very predictable. The space (for music) needs to be fairly open, not to many things happening at once. The client demonstrates how relatable this music is for her by her long interactions with lots of stationary movement. This movement happens without thought, almost autonomic, without effort.

The last client also does not want surprises. This client needs to know exactly what is going to happen and does not want to be required to reveal anything he does not wish to reveal. The client never tires of that chorus and moves with aesthtic eloquence to the music as he plays along. The more familiar and repetitive the music is, the more involved in the music making the client becomes. The more familiar the enviornment is, the safer the client feels.

BMMT establishes trust without judgement. BMMT takes the sounds  and the space the client prefers and watches how they respond. We listen with our eyes and our ears to what the client says with their face, their movement, their sounds and their involvement. BMMT utilizes the elements of the music to provide comfort and predictability for the client. We are all more willing to reveal to others our vulnerable self best when we feel safe. Those circumstances  can be developed through elements such as:

1) Tempo (speed or lack of it)

2) Dynamics (delicate audibility or full volume)

3) Space (space in the structure of the sound, space in the length of time it takes to produce the sound, space in the amount of sound being produced)

4)Attack (legato, connected melodies or harmonies, as is common in ambient music or bright stacatto/legato touch, as in march type music)

5) Phrasing (a recognizable musical thought, similar to a sentence, such as that found in a song)

6) Timbre (the character of the sound, seperate from melody, seperate from pitch, seperate from intensity)

We are now ready to establish the aural playroom by establishing a “theme” that is recgonizaeble, breif and is easy to repeat. Remeber the elements that help the client to feel at ease and then utilize those elements. The client feels safe and heard and is able to relate better under familiar conditions. The music can be used to construct the “aural playroom” which is a space in which the client knows where the boundaries of the room are and can easily predict what will happen next. This (aural) enviornment will follow the client’s comforts, prefereneces, and needs, in order to relate.

An introvert is not typically going to go into a crowd and feel safe enough to interact easily. In the crowd, there is too little space, to much volume, the tempo is too fast and the phrasing is not predictable. In other words, people are using unfamiliar “small talk” and quickly moving from onr phrase or topic to another. This produces a poor enviornment for an introvert (typically).

In contrast, the “life of the party” person thrives in these enviornments. Bouncing from one phrase to the next, never continuing a deep conversation, but entertaining many. He welcomes many by utilizing a medium attack, bright, but not abrupt. He functions well with many mixed timbres.

In conclusion, if we begin by thinking we see resistance at the start or think maybe the client isnt that interested, is that what is really being shown? Is it possilby how we have labeled it? Instead, look first at the responses and behaviors demonstrated. What are the strengths, the conditions that are helping the individual to function? What conditions or elements motivate the client to independently interact? Listen with our eyes and our ears, and then simply reflect that back musically. It can often be the first time an individual has been “heard” instead of just being labeled. Being heard for the first time is a great leap towards establishing trust. Utilzing the client’s information in a repetitive and predictable manner, builds a sense of predictability. Predictability establishes stability and safeness, which is a great way to begin to trust.

Antoinette Morrison MT-BC

Back Mountain Music Therapy-The heyward Rooms

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