Meet the Therapist
Aim High Music Therapy is officially open, and we are excited to be here! And by we, I mean I, because at this point it's a one woman show. Maybe that will change in the future; I suppose one of the exciting things about starting a new company is that you really don't know where things are going to go. You only know there's something you can give the world that's worth the risk of finding out.
And so, welcome to the site blog. I intend this to be a resource; mostly I'll be talking about what music therapy is, what it does for people, and other resources for the groups that I'll be serving. I intend to keep it fairly informal-- I'll cite my sources so you can read the formal research, but my goal here is to be approachable in a way that a scientific journal isn't. Please feel free to ask questions! Obviously, I hope that some of you who are reading this will be interested in signing up for music therapy services, preferably from my company. But this blog isn't going to be about me trying to sell you something so much as me trying to share what has me excited enough to start this company at all.
To that end, I'm going to do a little self disclosure and explain why I became a music therapist.
Some disabilities are very obvious-- say, if you use a wheelchair or read Braille, everyone can tell what's up. And that comes with all sorts of interesting challenges and situations.
On the other hand, some disabilities can be next to invisible. And that can result in the assumption that a person is "weird" for no reason. If you haven't been diagnosed, it's all too easy to assume it about yourself.
That was my story, growing up. I was always very hypersensitive, very distracted, very disorganized. I remember having a school counselor in middle school tell me I was lazy, and just accepting it because I really didn't have an explanation for why I couldn't seem to do anything right (even though I was smart enough to get into an accelerated program). I struggled with appropriate social skills, often saying or doing things that my peers found bizarre or annoying.
And then, around the time I started high school, my Mom met a neurologist to talk about a sibling with similar problems, and everything changed.
It turns out that I have some "invisible" disabilities. ADHD and Sensory Processing Disorder, among others. So many of the weird things that I had just assumed were "me", for lack of a better explanation, were symptoms of the mixed up wiring of my nervous system.
That might have been a relief to some people, to finally understand what was going on. For me, in that already awkward and insecure age of fifteen, it was like a disaster.
Getting a diagnosis is always a transition, and that's probably a topic I'll discuss in another entry. For now I'll only say that it was a struggle, but what helped me move forward was trying to see how my experiences could perhaps help someone else.
And then I met a music therapist.
Specifically, she came to my orchestra class to ask for volunteers for a program she was doing with the special education class at our school. I had never heard of music therapy, but I was intrigued, so I volunteered. And I fell in love.
Now, I had a blast working with the kids and singing and dancing and playing instruments-- but that wasn't what really fascinated me. What had me enchanted was after the sessions were over, when we would talk with the music therapist about what we had observed and what had happened, and I found out what was really going on. What goals we had been addressing, what insights we'd made, how these students were progressing. It was almost magical, and I wanted more.
As I did research into music therapy, I also became more aware of the role music had already played in my life. How playing the violin had improved my faulty hand-eye coordination (a symptom of dysgraphia, a learning disability). How being in an orchestra had helped me develop my social skills and concentration. If regular music classes could do that much for a girl with undiagnosed disabilities, then what could a music therapist do?
By the end of the year, I knew what I wanted to do as a career. And I've never regretted that choice.
Now, years later, I've learned a lot about managing my disabilities. They aren't going away, but I'm not ashamed of them, and they don't stop me from being what I want to be. Sometimes I have to get a bit creative to figure out how to do something that comes naturally to other people. But in a way, that's just practice for my job. To me, music therapy is all about taking what you love and what you can do well and finding a way to use that to deal with the struggles you have. Which is how I've had the opportunity as a therapist to see amazing things like:
A young boy with Down's syndrome and a very short attention span learning how to play a song on the piano
A young adult with autism, more or less nonverbal, able to request favorite songs by name and sing all the words
A shy young man with a stutter finding the confidence to record a CD with him singing covers of songs by his favorite band
A sensory defensive man with developmental disabilities learning to accept touching new instruments and even hold hands in order to dance with someone
Music Therapy is amazing. Not every success is dramatic, and all of the above examples took time and work to achieve. Still, sometimes it just makes me giddy to be a part of something so wonderful. I can talk your ear off about the science behind it (as is, there will be plenty about that in this blog), but in the end you have to see it to believe it.
So that's my story. Now you've got an idea of where I'm coming from and why I'm here.
How about you? I'd love to hear from readers about what brings you to my little corner of the Internet.