Response to “Momma v. Therapist”

by Kimberly on August 4, 2009 · 7 comments

Last week, I posted an article asking for your input about some experiences I’ve had recently where my “Momma” voice emerges when working with a client. You can read the post here.

I received several responses, both as comments on this blog and on Facebook.

And your comments have helped clarify things for me:

1. Be Careful What You Write

In re-reading the post, I realized that I had made it sound like I mother and “discipline” my clients. That’s not true. In fact, I never raise my voice with them. (With trauma-influenced children, when they get escalaBusiness Chatted, your first job is to calm them down. Keeping your voice low and calm helps tremendously).

I feel I need to clarify what happened. There were two times over the past several months where I noticed I was counting, giving 5 seconds to give a 4-year-old client time to make the right choice. This is a technique I frequently use with my 2-year-old. I noticed I was using this technique, then stopped and took a different tack. The counting to me is a “momma” technique and not a “therapist” technique.

But it was the first time those two parts of me had melded. I was having difficultly figuring out why (which I did in #2 below), so wrote the post asking for your help.

My apologies for not making that clearer. And lesson learned – be careful what you write!

2. Growth as a Person = Growth as a Therapist

Your comments helped me realize that I was changing and growing as a mother, adapting to the changes and growth of my children. And these changes will filter over to my professional work.

Especially when the 4-, 5-, and 6-year-olds I work with exhibit some of the same behaviors as my 2-year-old.

My job as a therapist is to be conscious of when that happens, be aware of myself, my actions, and my intentions. I need to self-reflect and make sure that what I am doing is in the best interests of my clients and is therapeutically-appropriate.

3. Supervision is Important

Roia, a fellow music therapy blogger at The Mindful Music Therapist, recently published two wonderful posts on Professional Clinical Supervision (you can read Part I here and Part II here).

To add to her thoughts, I feel supervision can take on many forms. As a private practitioner, I do not have a direct supervisor, so I have had to seek out my own supervision. Sometimes it’s from other therapists or co-workers, sometimes from music therapy friends, and sometimes from a counselor I occasionally work with. If I have needed to work something out, there has always been someone available.

And I am grateful to have found another avenue, an unexpected one. You.

So the take-home lesson here is: supervision is important and it may pop up where you least expect it.

Thank you for your help.


{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Roia August 4, 2009 at 12:00 pm

Hey, Kimberly,

First of all, thanks for the kind reference. Second, rats! How did I miss your original post? And what a great post it was (as is this one).

I think you demonstrated great self-awareness as a clinician simply by recognizing immediately that, in a particular situation or two with your clients, your tone changed to the one you use with your child(ren). And hooray for you for being willing to put it out here and look at it with the music therapy masses (because you just know there’s masses of us music therapy types out here ). Half the battle for music therapists (and I imagine for other types of clinicians who do this sort of depth work) is to be aware of how they’re interacting with their clients, the reactions they’re having to them and to reflect on why that may be (all of which you seem to be doing).

Ongoing clinical supervision helps us look at (and perhaps question and eventually clarify) our beliefs about what a music therapist “should” be doing, what a client “should” be doing (you know, that lovely list of “shoulds” we all carry around in our minds), and what therapy is “supposed” to look like.

Obviously, what happened in your session was countertransference, and another way to look at countertransference is as information. It’s not necessarily breaking a therapy “rule”. It’s a normal part of the work, especially when you’re dealing with children who have experienced trauma.

Countertransference can help us look at our own reactions, and it helps us look at how our clients may be perceiving us, as well as directing our attention to the interpersonal dynamics in the session. Even if you don’t use a psychodynamic approach in your work, there’s still a relationship (along with all the emotions that entails), and it’s helpful (at least I’ve found it helpful) to think about what role my client may be (unconsciously) wanting me to play (through the “miracle” of projective identification and/or traumatic reenactment).

What a great post, Kimberly! Thanks so much, and sorry for blathering on for so long.
.-= Roia´s last blog ..Supervision: Part II: Peer Supervision =-.

Carol August 4, 2009 at 6:32 pm

As I find myself in much greater mommy time than therapist time, I would love to put in a light note.

Would I be more patient with my children if they were indeed my clients?


Kimberly August 4, 2009 at 11:30 pm

Thank you for your insightful comments, Roia. I don’t have anything else to add – I just appreciate how nicely you describe what happened. Thank you.

Kimberly August 4, 2009 at 11:32 pm

Agreed! I have thought many times (when with my kids) that I would be more patient with them if they were my clients. Then again…I’m glad they’re not:D

Carlton Byrd January 18, 2011 at 12:04 pm

Hello Kimberly,

My name is Carlton Byrd. I am a graduate of New York University and am currently writing a screenplay where my main character is a practicing music therapist. While reaching out to many professionals in the field in order to expand my knowledge of the subject through research and interviews, I was referred to your blog by a therapist at the Institute for Therapy Through the Arts. After reading your posting “Mommy vs. Therapist” I would love to ask you a few questions if you are willing and able to provide your answers.

What interested me most about “Mommy vs. Therapist” was the idea that somehow whether you want it to or not your personal life (or personal reality) can some how creep its way into your sessions. I was wondering if you’ve had any more experiences where you found yourself struggling to balance your personal life with your devotion to your craft? If so were you able to finally balance the two worlds? If so, how?

Also, the AMTA website characterizes music therapy as “unique among college degree programs because it not only allows a thorough study of music, but encourages examination of one’s self as well as others”.

I was curious to know if you found this to be true? If so when you were studying for your degree, how did your study of music therapy promote an examination of yourself? Did this occur in your psychology courses or did you notice it occurring over the course of your studies? Finally, what did your studies enlighten about YOU that you may or may not have been aware of before beginning your studies?

I greatly appreciate any answers you are willing to give me on this subject.
Thank you for your time. I look forward to speaking to you.

Carlton Byrd
New York University Alum
Ron Howard Fellowship Award Recipient

Kimberly January 18, 2011 at 2:34 pm

Hi Carlton! You ask some fabulous questions 🙂 I also got your email and look forward to responding to you there! ~Kimberly

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