The longer I work in healthcare, the more I understand why we need professionals to serve those in an active state of recovery and healing. And my hunch is if you have been a patient in any healthcare system, for any period of time, you will understand this too.
As we address the #caseformusictherapy it is time to look at the importance of professionals in healthcare – including professional music therapists.
Like all therapy, the quality of the relationship between the therapist and the client/patient is the single most contributing factor to the individual reaching their goals. More specifically, research shows that the therapeutic relationship is one of the strongest predictors of successful therapy. Establishing such a relationship requires training and experience.
I meet individuals for the first time when they are looking for help, support, or strengthening. Establishing trust within the opening moments of the first session is critical if I am to move forward and thoroughly learn a person’s story, dreams, personality, and motivators, and then ultimately help them reach their goals.
It is humbling to witness someone break free from the limitations and barriers imposed on them by their past or current circumstance and move towards greater wellness and healing. I consider our clients brave and am honoured to play a role in the next stage of their journey. For those reasons and more, the relationship I establish with the people who come to see me in therapy is at the heart of my work…beyond even the music.
American psychologist Carl Rogers defines a ‘helping relationship’ as “a relationship in which at least one of the parties has the intent of promoting the growth, development, maturity, improved functioning and improved coping with life of the other.”
For me to reach professional status, my training and education needed to take me to a certain level of competency to be an effective therapist. The American Psychological Association identifies effective therapists as:
- having a sophisticated set of interpersonal skills, including:
- verbal fluency
- interpersonal perception
- affective modulation and expressiveness
- warmth and acceptance
- focus on other
- able to form a working alliance with a broad range of clients.
- providing an acceptable and adaptive explanation for the client’s distress.
- providing a treatment plan that is consistent with the explanation provided to the client.
- influential, persuasive, and convincing.
- continually monitoring client progress authentically.
- flexible and will adjust therapy if resistance to the treatment is apparent or the client is not making adequate progress.
- not avoiding difficult material in therapy and uses such difficulties therapeutically.
- communicate hope and optimism.
- aware of the client’s characteristics and context.
- aware of his or her psychological process and does not inject his or her material into the therapy process unless such actions are deliberate and therapeutic.
- aware of the best research evidence related to the particular client, in terms of treatment, problems, social context, and so forth.
- seeking to improve continually.
This is what all therapists want to be – music therapists too. In addition to this list, music therapists also have additional music-based skills and interventions. However, there are some areas I feel music therapists could (and should) improve.
I feel there is also growth needed in the following areas throughout all stages of education and training: critical thinking, interpersonal and counselling skills, and business skills. When I graduated almost 30 years ago, these areas were not stressed enough. I became aware of my ‘professional lackings’ quite soon after I started my practice. It was up to me to fill the many gaps. I want to say these things have changed, but unfortunately, low confidence in these areas is still exhibited with the many new therapists I coach.
But music therapists are not alone in having areas to improve. That is the motto for any true professional who desires to make a significant impact….especially through effective therapeutic relationships. The success of your patients will always be the indicator of the effectiveness of your professionalism.