Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Let's Talk! Facilitating Therapeutic Discussions.

Here are some ideas to help you facilitate discussion after a music intervention. Most of these suggestions will be applicable to both individual as well as group settings. I put the following considerations to paper as I thought about how to encourage and guide discussion in a group setting after a drumming intervention. My intention is to provide music therapists or music therapy students with some concrete guidelines for leading a discussion.

1. What should you say and how should you say it?

Reflecting: This is when you say, "It sounds like you might be feeling..." Reflecting is a good way to prompt someone to go into more detail, but it keeps you from unintentionally leading the client's thoughts and words.

Restating: This could be a phrase like, “I heard you say that…” Restating is very important for several reasons. First, it demonstrates that you are listening. Second, it clears up any misunderstanding you might have of the subject. Restating something back to a client also has the effect of allowing them to hear back what they are saying. There is something very powerful in hearing your own words repeated back to you in a different voice. It is amazing how something can sound perfectly logical when
you say it, but seems like "crazy talk" when you hear somebody else say it!

2. Allow the client to develop the solutions and strategies.

It is always more powerful for a person to think that they have come up with an answer on their own. They are much more likely to follow their own advice and people feel good about themselves when they think that they solved their own problem.

The therapist can help this process by asking leading questions:

For example, if the client starts talking about an interpersonal situation they are having with a spouse or family member, the therapist might ask, "What can you do to help yourself prepare to talk to this person?"

3. Stay away from asking "why" questions and don't give too much advice. The best thing to do while counseling is to have other people in a group come up with suggestions or help develop strategies that might lead to a solution.

4. Focus on the client(s) and not other people that come up in the discussion. Help the client or group think about their "circle" of influence and what they can actually control. Help them to realize that they can sometimes influence other people, but should maintain and cultivate their own healthy "circle" at all times.

These ideas will work in a hospital room during one on one music therapy with a patient or during a cancer support group after a drum circle intervention. The important thing is that the therapist assists the client or group in transferring the ideas that came up during a music intervention into applying the ideas in life or a given situation. Ideas like "teamwork" and "focus" are some examples of words or ideas that might occur in a music activity. A good facilitator will be able to help the client think of how those words can apply to their current situation in real life.

The guidelines I have outlined will help the therapist maintain appropriate therapeutic boundaries as well as maintain the flow of discussion. I know from my own experience that there have been many times when a client has said something that I did not expect! If I had not been in the practice of restating or reflecting, then I am sure I would have lost my composure and provided some awkward silence!

Good luck!

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