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Standing on Our Own Unique Feet

by Kimberly on September 13, 2012 · 3 comments

A friend of mine recently posted the following quote on Facebook:

For years music therapy has been wearing a mask because of our inadequacy to describe and understand her fully. We disguise her in medically acceptable terms. We speak only of observable data. We superimpose statistical formulae, hoping that if we develop the scientific side, the artistic, spiritual side will magically emerge. We rarely mention that music goes beyond sign to spirit. We describe and develop the objective, knowing all along that the subjective has as much, if not more, influence on our patients, our clients and ourselves. ~Carolyn Kenny

Then in the latest newsletter from CBMT, my colleague Dena Register contributed the following thoughts:

Over the course of the last several years it has become apparent that one of the primary ways we describe music therapy is by relating what we do to the function of other professions…While these “partnerships” have served us fairly well over the years, we have entered a new era of describing and expressing the value of music therapy. It is essential that we explain and describe music therapy as its own unique profession, unlike any of the related therapeutic professions or creative arts therapies.

Both these thoughts—from two different music therapists of two different eras and, I would bet, two different theoretical foundations—seem strikingly similar to me. At it’s core, it seems to be that both are challenging each of us to recognize, accept, and share all that our field has to offer.

And there’s so much music therapy can. There is the science and the art, the objective and the subjective, the statistical and the relational. All of these components add to the value and uniqueness of our field.

This isn’t anything we need to apologize for, either. If anything, we should be proud of it! Sometimes we need to use the science and the statistical language. It’s there, it provides important information, and it grows in relevancy, especially as we continue to learn and understand more about the amazing way our brains are engaged and changed by music.

But that doesn’t mean we don’t recognize the spiritual and even sometimes magical essence of what we do. I am very comfortable with the science and statistics side of music therapy. Yet there are moments when the science and the stats don’t quite cover it. Moments when I am in awe, when I don’t fully understand what just happened, when I don’t always have the right words to express what I just witnessed.

My thought at this point in my journey and growth as a music therapist is each facet provides value. Each is an important part of what makes our field unique and what makes music therapy work. My thought at this point is that we should be proud of that.

Proud of standing on our own unique feet.


{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Bill Matney September 14, 2012 at 9:11 am

Completely agreed, Kimberly. A couple of points struck me as I read this.

First, that there are points when the “numbers” don’t quite cover it, but also where WORDS don’t quite cover it either. This is a challenge that I feel we might benefit from better acknowledging.

Second, I gather a particular sense of singularity, or uniqueness….and of multiplicity, or a place where each unique facet of our work is given its due connective value.

Thanks for your thoughts!


Kimberly September 20, 2012 at 9:30 am

That’s a really good point about the words, Bill. I completely agree! Thanks for sharing your thoughts 🙂 ~Kimberly

Jillian Mathews September 21, 2012 at 5:25 am

I have just started as a Music Therapy Student at QMU bit am a practising community muscian. I am aware of projects that are attempting to classify some of the functionality of the human brain in repsonse to studies on music. Also music in other community based species such as dolphins, fish shoaling, birds flocking, whales, apes etc. Music is its own communication phenominum and just because we share it with other species should not mean that it is subbordinate to anything (i.e. launguage) it should definitely stand on its own feet. Perhaps it could help us lead to an understanding of how we can work with other species and why activities like dolphin therapy also have a profound effect on humans.

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