At times the rumble of drums or the soft tinkle of ivories floats into my counselling room at Little Window – Counselling, Psychology and Wellness. Then I know that our Music Therapist, Claire Stephensen, is working with a client, and I’m intrigued. Poking my head into the hallway, I try to see Claire using music in therapy, but her door is firmly closed and the mystery remains.
I would not describe myself as a musical person. I sing like a cat on heat, I’m an awkward dancer and my husband used to tell me off for singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star out of tune to our children. Yet I also know music brings great joy. I hear the first beats of an old love song and memories flood back. My mood can be lifted or lowered through a few well-chosen songs. I know that there is magic in how we respond to music. To satisfy my curiosity about music therapy I had a chat with Claire and asked her a barrage of questions.
Thanks for having me Anne, I know your curiosity is shared with so many people. I look forward to sharing a glimpse into the ‘music therapy space’.
How do you start a music therapy session?
In music therapy training we learn a lot about the importance of overall structure of a session – the opening, middle and close are each considered to be very important for their own reasons (just like the open, middle and close of a song or piece of music!) – and it will look different for each person I work with. I always intend to meet the person where they’re at – and finish the session closer to where they want to be. For some, this might mean we start with talking before introducing music, and for others, we start with music before we do any talking. Some clients like to start their sessions by bringing a song or piece of music that resonated for them – to help bring language to their current challenges. At other times we talk through the key challenges or wins so we can decide together what the best modality will be for the ‘middle’ part of the session.
I came across the quote “Comparison is the death of Joy” by Mark Twain the other day and was struck by how succinctly it captured what I frequently hear, and occasionally do. Consider the following ways that joy is killed.
The new mum
The new mum gently nestles her beautiful baby boy in her arms. She gazes lovingly at her son, stroking his hair. He’s snuggled in a bunny rug, blissfully milk drunk. She’s just finished breastfeeding him, happy to do so in front of me.
She dips her head away from my inquiring eyes. “He wakes more at night than my friends baby”. Continue reading →
These 5 delightfully therapeutic TED Talks are perfect when your head is a cacophony of critical chatter or your brain barrages you with blasts of self-blame. Take time, less than 18 minutes, to listen to a voice other than your own which is, after all, just telling you a story that you’ve probably heard many times before.
All these speakers know how hard it is to be human and yet still inspire us to be better. Clients tell me these talks make you feel that you’re ok, even if you’re not perfect. TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) is a not for profit organisation spreading ideas in the form of powerful talks. Before you start listening, scroll to the bottom of the post for some therapeutic listening tips.
1. The Power of Vulnerability
Let’s start with Brene Brown.Her first talk, The Power of Vulnerability, is one I’ve listened to many times and encourage most clients to listen to. If you’ve ever thought your vulnerability Continue reading →
A warm welcome, a cup of tea, a comfy place to sit, beautiful surroundings, gentle music and the waft of fragrant oils. We hope our clients experience a sense of calm and safety as they enter our counselling space at Little Window – Counselling, Psychology and Wellness. The house, with frosted glass windows, provides complete privacy and scatters a soft light through the rooms. A sanctuary and an inward-looking space. Ideal for reflection.
Created with intent
The directors of Little Window, psychologists Thania and Christina, created this space with intent. They lovingly chose and positioned every item for the rooms and behind their artful decoration lies neuroscience. Their intention is to provide a calm and safe space, which helps interrupt the fight, flight or freeze response clients often experience. These responses begin in the amygdala, the area of the brain that processes memory, interprets emotion, and often drives Continue reading →
The psychologist’s chair is unassuming and a bit dirty. The grey fabric is the sort chosen by manufacturers when they know that a chair will get plenty of use and limited care. It’s not particularly comfortable and doesn’t invite you to linger or rest, but it is functional. For the last six years this chair has been my constant companion, and it has steadfastly held my clients as they have wept, grieved, fumed, hoped, planned, dreamed and laughed. Never once did it falter.
As I look at the empty chair, waiting patiently for the next client, I am reminded of the courage it takes to sit in that chair. Of my brave clients who come to meet a stranger, sit, share what hurts most and what they hold most precious. Then they to come back and do it again and again until the focus becomes the future, plans are made, change happens and laughter bubbles.
Thank you chair, I will miss you and your twin that I sit on.