You may (or may not) recall that I wrote about the dreadful session I had with her a couple of weeks ago. I was feeling terrifically annoyed with myself (among other sources of annoyance) because I had allowed my anxiety about staff being upset with my "letting" C strip in music therapy (I mean, really?) cloud my therapeutic judgment.
So, as I was driving back from Michigan (which is quite a long drive when you're headed to New Jersey) to visit my friend (a music therapist turned music librarian, as it happens), I was thinking about the coming week. Naturally, my thoughts turned to Monday morning, C's scheduled time for music therapy.
I had (yet) another twinge of guilt as I remembered our last session before I went on vacation (just for the record, it's not unusual to have a horrible session right before a vacation- in fact, it's one of the, er, perks of being a therapist).
And let me just say, it was not one of my shining moments as a music therapist.
As I was trundling along the Ohio Turnpike (where they have very nice rest areas, I must say), I wondered what I was supposed to do about the stripping. I didn't want to stop working with her, because, in spite of the exposure episodes, there were moments of actual connection in the music.
I tried to perceive the situation from C's point of view (something I've tried to do before), considering the idea (again) that she may, in fact, feel exposed.
Then it suddenly hit me!
A forty-five minute session is way too intense for her! Sure she may appreciate parts of the experience, and she may even find herself engaged meaningfully with the music (maybe even with me), but she's not even close to being ready to deal with that kind of constant attentive interaction for that long of a period of time!
I need to start out with very short sessions (five to ten minutes at most) and gradually learn when C is letting me know she's ready for more time.
Honestly, sometimes I think I've been at this a bit too long that I could manage to forget something as basic as that. As basic as: can this client tolerate a 45-minute session, or should we start small and work our way up?
So, today I showed up in the cottage feeling a little more confident (with regard to the staff), and I explained my plan. I'm not sure they were as enthusiastic about my plan as I was, but they were agreeable enough (which I appreciated).
The supervisor (for some reason) decided to get C, and we sat outside of the room where her group was meeting.
The first thing I felt I needed to do was to apologize to C for misdirecting my frustration in the previous session and aiming it at her. Then I acknowledged that I had not remembered that when someone is paying very close, unwavering attention to you for a sustained period of time it can be uncomfortable as hell.
I told C my plan. "We'll start with a ten minute session. I'll practically be singing 'hello' and then 'goodbye' and then we'll stop, and I'll plan to be here next Monday again."
C, tucked under her blanket, tapped her hand against her leg. I sang "hello", she listened quietly, then I heard her giggle and vocalize with me a little bit. Then I asked if she needed anything else from the music before we ended for today. She vocalized a bit more. I sang "goodbye," put away my guitar, and I escorted her back to her group.
She was smiling.