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Taking Control of Your Music Therapy

December 12, 2017

Now that you’ve gotten into the swing of things with your music therapy, you’re probably looking at how to maximize the benefits. You might be learning an instrument, participating in a group, or engaging in listening and analysis of various songs and genres of music. In order to make sure you’re getting the absolute most out of your therapy, it’s important that you take control of your own program.

What exactly does it mean to “take control” of your therapy? It might sound like you’re ignoring the therapist’s recommendations, or demanding certain activities during therapy, but that’s not it at all. It means two things:

Taking ownership of the work that needs doing, both in and out of therapy.Being open and honest with your therapist about what is working for you, and what isn’t so effective.

First, let’s talk about taking ownership. That involves some serious work in all facets of your life. Being able to admit your own issues is one of the biggest – and hardest – steps in healing. Licensed professional counselor Alicia Munoz says, “Truly taking ownership requires a willingness to experience and acknowledge our prejudices, imperfections, and vulnerabilities. Ultimately, it means we have to give up defending ourselves, to step out from behind the shield of our victimhood and recognize our capacity to hurt another.”

You’re probably noticing some differences since your injury in how you interact with people or function in your day-to-day life; after all, that’s probably one of the reasons you’re in therapy to begin with. Being able to own those differences doesn’t mean admitting that everything different in your life is your “fault,” or that you’re a bad person because of these changes. It does mean being able to admit that there’s work to be done – and what that work involves for you personally.

Owning the work is actually a pretty liberating thing, because it means understanding that you’re not hopeless. You’re not somehow destined to stay in a loop of anger, guilt, or depression. By saying, “I own this, and I accept the work necessary,” you’ve just empowered yourself – and put your brain on the right track to recovery. Taking ownership can be a highly productive decision that spills out into other areas of your life as well, creating and repairing connections with others in your life. After all, the habits and new coping strategies you learn in therapy are designed to help you succeed outside the session, so it makes sense that the good things you do in therapy will also help you elsewhere.

Once you’ve accepted ownership for the work involved, the other side of that ‘taking control’ coin is being upfront with your therapist about what’s working or not working. Maybe your therapist put you into a group, but you’re having problems connecting or sharing in that space, even after several visits. Perhaps you’re learning an instrument, but find that outside of therapy, listening to other musicians is what really helps you. These are the kinds of things you’ll want to bring up to your therapist as soon as they become apparent.

In music therapy, your first few sessions will have included an intake that lets the therapist know how to best help you, but every so often you’ll find that some tweaking of your therapy program needs to be done. It’s okay to speak up – it’s your therapy, and so if it’s not helping you, or if it’s making you less comfortable, it’s in your best interests to say so. A good therapist will not only hear your concerns, but will work with you to find something that addresses your concerns.

Now, that’s not to say that you should automatically discard your therapist’s suggestions if they frighten you or make you uncomfortable. Part of therapy is getting out of our comfort zone, and your therapist might be pushing you for good reason. That’s where the communication comes in; talk to your therapist about how those suggestions or activities make you feel, and what your fears or concerns are. They might be able to explain them in such a way that makes you feel more comfortable trying them – or they may decide to postpone those activities in favor of something else.

Communication isn’t just important if you’re feeling like you’re not making progress, either. In some instances, you might be making excellent progress, and might be ready to take on a more advanced activity. Whatever your situation is, keep your therapist informed.

Therapy is a cooperation between you and your therapist on several levels; they offer tools, strategies and activities that help you to do the work necessary for your healing. It can be a long and difficult process, but owning your part in it and keeping your therapist ‘in the loop’ about what’s working and what’s not will make for a smoother, more productive therapy relationship.