With most jobs, as with most things in life, there’s often more to it than meets the eye. When someone that is not trained or experienced in a particular skill, trade, or profession makes observations about what someone else is ‘doing’ they can end up coming to conclusions that are more based on their lack of knowledge, rather than a full understanding of what might actually be going on.
Music Therapist Gabby Ritter-Cantesanu recently shared this story on a community list-serve for music therapists. Someone had posted a comment on another list, describing how they thought a music therapist wasn’t doing the best job because of lack of rapport-building with the clients. What that person ‘saw’ or ‘heard’ was likely limited to their personal level of training, experience, and orientation. Did they understand why that therapist was doing what they were doing? Or were they not seeing (or hearing) subtle, yet crucial, cues that would have given them a deeper understanding and appreciation with regard to the session? One analogy would be the person who is viewing a painting by Picasso and saying, “Look how disorganized this is. He obviously couldn’t draw very well. I know lots of people who can draw better than that.”
The following is most of Gabby’s post, used with permission. It tells the story of two therapists who come to realize that we all need to better understand the challenges and solutions that exist within our various professions.
The question “Is the observer of the MT session not seeing what the MT is doing?” hits home. And I’d like to say, this is a VERY COMMON occurrence for me. And no, in my experience they are NOT “seeing” (or hearing) what the MT is doing.
Due to the nature of my position, I do not have a lot of chatting time as I’m flying into a school, providing service and then running out to get to my next school.
I overheard our art therapist say: “I wish I could be a music therapist and do the same thing every week”, after observing my session (I worked in her office) for three weeks in a row.
What she isn’t trained to observe, and was completely missing, was the nuances in the music. This particular student with autism cannot handle change, no matter how small, without having “melt downs” that include self abuse. She gets stuck in that routine of “sameness”. To help her move through this, I do several things musically each week. This student is very musical and notices small changes in key, rhythm, tonality, etc. Each week I change things musically with her, leaving many of the actual songs the same. So, we may work on Old McDonald for several weeks, but one week we’ll sing it in D major in the typically recorded version (steady (guitar) strumming pattern, etc.). The next week, I may keep it in D major but alter the music to finger picking during “EIEIO”, etc. The next week we may play it on ukulele. By helping her move musically through small changes, she has begun to accept changes more readily and where she used to cry if I did not play music (and sing lyrics) exactly the same week to week, now I’m able to take greater risks and alter lyrics, play in minor keys, etc. You should have heard our minor version of Old McDonald with bats, goblins, mummies, etc. on the farm. The classroom is also reporting that she is accepting more changes and is able to now fully participate in morning circle time. SUCCESS!
To the art therapist, I was just playing the same songs every week. And because my students has improved at accepting changes, she wasn’t completely shutting down so it wasn’t overtly obvious that she was doing something uncomfortable or difficult. Once I sat down and explained this to the art therapist, she understood and thanked me, but had she not made that very hurtful comment, I would have never known this was her interpretation of what MTs do.
I feel observations by outsiders, without discussion with the MT, should be taken with a grain of salt because in all reality, they are not trained to recognize musical behavior so our groups can appear to be “happy happy joy joy” as Annette points out.
Many OTs I work with express the same problem with their field. It looks like a lot of fun to swing in a swing several times a day, but it is actually a student’s sensory diet requirement so that they can function within the classroom.
These misunderstandings can lead to great discussions and further understanding but they can lead to feeling like you’re undervalued/not valued and burnout. Peer supervision has been a wonderful experience for me, where I can freely vent these misunderstandings and get some validation and feedback on how to address them and move forward.
Does this type of thing happen in your work?
Leave your comments below.