There are many things that challenge me in life right now. It has been a long road figuring out what I can and can’t do about certain situations. I CAN call and check the status of a referral, even ask them to expedite it. I CAN NOT circumvent any part of their process and having an attitude with them with NOT get things done faster. So, it is empowering to know that I can keep track of the process.
However, I have some remaining frustration because I only have so much control over the process. So, my neurologist referred me to Music Therapy. I consider myself a musician. I sing, I understand Music Theory, I write, but I am not at a professional level and right now I pretty much just enjoy listening to music and playing my ukulele. So, when the therapist was explaining to me that we were going to listen to music and not offer any views about the musical structure or type of music, we were going to focus on how the music made me feel and why. I was quite skeptical.
Although I didn’t get to finish, being a student of music caused me to become very critical of music. Not in the negative way, but to listen to the instrumentation, the rhythm, the back-beat, the notes in cracks, and all sorts of musical methods, so I was not convinced that this was going to be a successful therapy. HOWEVER, I remain open to all of my doctors’ suggestions and try them because I am willing to do anything if it means I will get better.
I have been in Music therapy for three months. I love it! So, for the curious, I will spill the beans on what happens in some of my sessions.
We go into a little office either with a desk or with really comfortable chairs. It depends on what she has planned for that session. If we go with the desk then she will do a guided meditation with very neutral background music that does not follow the common harmonic progressions that we are used to hearing. It is the type of meditation that allows you to focus on the physical feelings in your body and focus on each part and relax it. Then, you think of a place that make you feel happy or loved or comforted, kinda depends on what you are going through. When you think of this place, you look around, in your mind you focus on the things in this place that you find beautiful or comforting and you impress that feeling of calm in your head. Then, you get to draw the place! Once it was a forest, dappled with sunlight. Once it was a banana split. I don’t question the meaning of these things because that is not the point. I enjoy both things and they make me happy and comfort me.
Sometimes we go into the room with comfy chairs. In this room we do a different, more challenging type of guided meditation. Often it is dealing with a specific anxiety and sort of untangling it and allowing me to look at the situation without distraction. What this does specifically for me is helps me see what I have the ability to do and what is outside of my ability. I can then act on the things that need attention and I do not feel guilty about things I have no control over. It is really great.
One of my favorite exercises is lyrical analysis. We don’t stick to any particular genre of music, she chooses music based on lyrics. Remember, it is not a time to spend judging the musical composition of the piece, UNLESS it is in conjunction with part of the lyrical structure. We talk about how the words are used in the song and if I can or cannot relate to it. I am always asked what phrase catches my my attention the most and why. It has exposed me to music that I would have never listened to on my own and I have bought a few of the songs.
The most important thing we did (in my opinion) is on our second visit she helped me create several playlists that I can use to help shift my mood when I am upset or frustrated. It is a way to acknowledge how you feel and then proactively improve your mood by listening to music that is gradually uplifting. At this point, I can just pick and choose a song that matches my mood, one that feels comforting, and one that makes me feel energetic. It is a great tool for preparing for situations that I expect to be anxiety inducing and I use it all of the time now.
I must admit that the worst part of music therapy is that it is not an ongoing type of therapy. We work in four week blocks and then we do an assessment. When I started we met weekly and now we are meeting every two weeks. Eventually, we may only meet during times of medical and severe emotional crisis. I am very thankful that my therapist is the kind, gentle soul that she is. I am glad that I can describe my feelings to her using musical terms and she gets it.
I am glad that the art therapies are becoming more common in the treatment of chronic illness because everyone needs a way to express themselves and music touches us in ways that can be indescribable but understood. I encourage everyone who has the ability to take advantage of alternative therapies in conjunction with the more traditional treatments and therapies. You might be as skeptical as I was, but you might end up advocating for more access because of how helpful it was. Should you try it and it doesn’t work for you, don’t give up, try something different. We can’t always get rid of the pain or sickness, but we can change our perspective. It’s VERY DIFFICULT, but it IS possible!